Over the last year, Alex Ovechkin has repeated over and over his stance on the 2018 Winter Olympics: I’m playing for Team Russia and I don’t care what the NHL decides.
On Monday, the NHL officially announced its decision and revealed that it would forbid its players from participating. Later that evening, the NHLPA condemned the NHL’s announcement and a wave of star players criticized the move.
Tuesday after the Capitals’ morning skate, Ovechkin again reiterated he would play. Later in the afternoon, Ovechkin’s Olympic dream ran into an unforeseen roadblock: his home country.
Hockey Russia Vice President and Putin confidant Roman Rotenberg announced that Ovechkin would not suit up for Team Russia without an NHL agreement being made, further clouding the issue.
Hockey Russia's VP told me Ovechkin's willing to go to OG won't be enough to join team Russia. NHL has to agree to that #Caps
— Igor Eronko (@IgorEronko) April 4, 2017
Rotenberg elaborated to championat.com, saying that he would only guarantee Ovechkin and other Russian players an Olympic appearance if they retire from the NHL and play for the KHL next season.
“If you take the same step as Kovalchuk did, and leave the NHL for the KHL, then you can count on participating in Olympics,” Rotenberg said as translated by Igor Kleyner. “Even then, the NHL decided everything. Without their permission, Kovalchuk wouldn’t be able to leave. Very difficult negotiations. It was the league’s decision. Otherwise, he wouldn’t leave. Same with Datsyuk.”
“We don’t doubt our guys’ patriotism,” Rotenberg continued. “But the last word belongs to the NHL. There is a legal side of the contract.”
On Tuesday, all three of the Caps Russian players communicated that they would play for their home country next year regardless of the NHL’s decision.
After this season, Ovechkin has four years and $40 million remaining on his 13-year, $124 million contract which he signed in January 2008. Kuznetsov and Orlov are both restricted free agents.
Translations by Igor Kleyner.
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