Alex Ovechkin may want to play in the 2018 Winter Olympics, but Russian Hockey Federation president Vladislav Tretiak says the Washington Capitals forward needs to accept it won’t happen, per The Washington Post’s Isabelle Khurshudyan.
“What is there for Ovechkin to do now? Nothing. Play for Washington,” Tretiak said in an interview with Russian news website R-Sport translated by The Washington Post. “He has to accept that.”
Since the NHL announced its decision not to participate in the upcoming Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea, Ovechkin has told reporters he planned to go anyway. In April, he said, “Somebody going to tell me, like, don’t go, I don’t care — I just go.” Last month, he indicated to Russian media that there was still a chance he’d be allowed to go.
Capitals owner Ted Leonsis even told NHL.com that he’d allow star players like Ovechkin and Braden Holtby to leave the team temporarily for the Olympics if they wanted to.
However, NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly recently told The Athletic that the NHL received assurances from the International Ice Hockey Federation that any players under contract with the league wouldn’t be allowed to play in the Olympics. That includes players like Ovechkin, who might want to go anyway but are going to be met with stiff resistance from various stakeholders.
There’s little doubt that Russia, which will likely be the favorite in Pyeongchang given its talent in the KHL, would prefer to have Ovechkin alongside the likes of Ilya Kovalchuk, Pavel Datsyuk, Valeri Nichushkin, Nikita Gusev, and Mikhail Grigorenko. Hockey is a huge sport in the country, and this looks like its best shot at Olympic gold in men’s hockey since the fall of the Soviet Union. Still, given the absence of NHL players, Russia should be in prime position to make a run at gold regardless of Ovechkin’s presence.
This seems like a strong indication that even players who badly want to play in the 2018 Olympics won’t be allowed. There had been speculation about possible exceptions in certain cases where ownership approved, but it appears the NHL is trying to hold together without letting any players break ranks.