Despite yesterday’s announcement that the NHL will not participate in the 2018 Winter Olympics, Washington Capitals superstar Alexander Ovechkin plans to represent Russia no matter what.
“I’m going,” said Ovechkin. “It’s the biggest opportunity in your life to play in the Olympic Games. So, I don’t know, somebody [is] going to tell me ‘don’t go,’ I don’t care, I just go.”
NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman has hinted for nearly a year that the league may not send its players to South Korea next year, but Ovechkin has remained steadfast in his commitment to represent Russia.
“Yeah, I didn’t change my mind and I won’t,” he told reporters after practice today.
He still hopes that the NHL will change its mind regardless of yesterday’s declaration.
“Right now, it’s still time to make a decision; you can say whatever, but next year’s schedule is not out yet. So if the schedule is not going to the Olympic Games, then you can see they don’t bluff. But again, still long time, still everything can change.”
Ovechkin’s teammate and fellow Russian Evgeni Kuznetsov also hopes to see a change in heart from the league, but plans to attend regardless if called upon.
“Of course, if Russia needs us, of course,” Kuznetsov said. “It’s from the heart for Russian people. We’ll see though. Maybe they’ll let us go.”
Other players from around the league weighed in on the decision, including Edmonton Oilers forward Connor McDavid, who would likely be a shoe-in for Team Canada.
“It’s disappointing. I think that’s easy to say. Just the opportunity to chase down a spot on Team Canada and be able to represent my country,” he said. “Obviously, the Olympics is the greatest sporting event in the world. Not to be able to do that is disappointing but there’s a lot of people higher up making those decisions.”
The NHL has not said if it has a game plan on how to handle players who try to leave teams on their own to play in the Olympics, but is expected to announce a league-wide rule in the coming months. In the interim, commissioner Gary Bettman has instructed teams not to comment on the subject.