Late Thursday night, Alex Ovechkin released a long, passionate statement through the Washington Capitals website announcing that he would not be participating in the 2018 Winter Olympics. Ovechkin’s comments come on the eve of training camp and the first day he’s slated to take questions from reporters.
Ovechkin, who will be 32 on Sunday, has always longed to be an Olympic champion like his mother, who won two gold medals in basketball for Soviet Russia. But over the past year, the NHL has squabbled with the NHLPA, IIHF, and the IOC over whether to allow players to participate in the upcoming Olympics. The league ultimately decided that NHL players will not participate in the 2018 Winter Games in PyeongChang, South Korea.
On Wednesday, Vladislav Tretiak, President of the Ice Hockey Federation of Russia, officially closed the door on Ovechkin’s participation in an interview with R-Sport. The Washington Post’s Isabelle Khurshudyan first reported the news.
“What is there for Ovechkin to do now? Nothing. Play for Washington,” Tretiak told R-Sport. “He has to accept that.”
A day later, it’s clear that Ovechkin has accepted the decision, but he made sure to let the NHL know about his disappointment.
“I wanted to make this statement so that my words are clear and nobody misunderstands what I am saying. The Olympics are in my blood and everybody knows how much I love my country. Ever since I was a kid and all the time I have played in the NHL, NHL players have played in the Olympic Games. We never have to make choice between our team and our country my whole career. I love the Capitals and my teammates here as much as I love my country and I know all the other NHL players feel the same for their teams. We should not have to be in position to make this choice.
“My mom was a two-time Olympic champion and when I start to play hockey I dream that if I have chance to play for my country I will do it every time they ask me. Ever since I was teenager I have played for Junior Russia National team whenever they ask me to. Ever since I was good enough to play on Men’s National Team, whenever they ask me I play. When they ask me to be part of Olympics Closing Ceremony in Vancouver before Sochi get the Olympic Games I said ok let’s do it. When they ask me to be Ambassador for Sochi Olympic Games I did it. When they ask me to go to Greece and be first Russian to carry Olympic flame on way to Sochi I do it. When they ask me to play in World Cup I do it. I am proud that we win on Junior team and for the National team in World Championships but we do not win the most important thing yet. Olympic Gold Medal.
“I see the news this week and I am very disappointed that IOC, IIHF and NHL put me and all NHL players in this position when some of the best players in world do not have chance to play in the Olympic Games. This is not just about me but all the NHL players who want to play and have a chance to win Gold for their country. Our countries are now not allowed to ask us to play in the Olympics. Me, my teammates and all players who want to go all lose. So do all the fans of hockey with this decision that we are not allowed to be invited. NHL players in the Olympics is good for hockey and good for Olympics. It sucks that will we not be there to play!!
“I said every time I was asked since last Olympics that nobody is going to tell me I can’t play because my country was going to be allowed to ask me. Now the IIHF and NHL say my country is not allowed to ask anybody in the NHL to play and there is nothing to talk about anymore. I talk to Ted about this last year and he support me and have my back and understand what I want to do if I was allowed to be asked to go. Me and my family thank him for his support.
“There is nothing like Olympic Games. It is still my dream to win an Olympic Gold medal for my country. I hope things will change and all of us will have a chance to go again in 2022. What’s most important to remember is kids have lots of dreams. My focus as it always is this time of year is on my other dream as a kid, to try to win the Stanley Cup. I am excited training camp has started in Washington and the time for talking is done. We just have to go out and do it and I will try my hardest to help my teammates win like I do every year since I came to the NHL.”
Headline photo: Bruce Bennett
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