Provorov's Olympic disappointment

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Provorov's Olympic disappointment

Ivan Provorov is disappointed. 

Not bitter and disgusted like Alex Ovechkin may feel, but upset nonetheless that the NHL won’t be participating in the Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea.

“It is unfortunate and a little sad, because every time you get a chance to represent your country it’s something special,” said Provorov. “It’s a different type of feeling because you get together, you have to jell real fast and find chemistry. It’s a shorter tournament, two to three weeks. Every time you get a chance to play for your country it’s something special. It is very unfortunate and sad that NHL players can’t go.”

The reality will hit home when Russia opens the Olympic tournament on Wednesday, Feb. 14 against Slovakia. Had the NHL and the Players Association struck an agreement, this would have been Provorov’s first trip to the Olympics and probably his only opportunity to play with superstars like Pavel Datsyuk and Ilya Kovalchuk, iconic figures he grew up watching as a kid in Yaroslavl, who are no longer in the NHL.

“Datsyuk is definitely one of them,” said Provorov. “Growing up there was Sergei Gonchar. I got to watch a little bit of (Sergei) Zubov. He was an unbelievable player, a great two-way defenseman.”

Four years ago, Provorov was a 17-year-old skating for the Cedar Rapids RoughRiders of the USHL when his native Russia hosted the Winter Olympics in Sochi. There was a tremendous level of expectations for the Russian hockey team that finished a very disappointing fifth. Since the incorporation of NHLers in the Olympics, Russia hasn’t medaled since winning bronze in 2002 in Salt Lake City, and the last time they claimed gold came in 1992 when the former Soviet nations formed the Unified team. Provorov wasn’t even born yet.

Still, the importance and relevance of winning Olympic gold is not lost on the 21-year-old defenseman. Provorov comprised a Russian team that took the bronze at the World Championships and he’s been part of two silver medal winning team at the World Junior Championships.   

“Hockey is one of the main sports back home. Everybody watches it and everybody loves it,” said Provorov. “That would be huge. It would be special. It’s a different feeling playing in the NHL. It’s a longer season. Eighty-two games and then playoffs. It’s a grind. There, it’s a different feeling because you get together real fast.”   

Along with former Los Angeles Kings blueliner Slava Voynov, Provorov may have been Team Russia’s top defenseman in the tournament. He would have been tasked to play some big minutes while shutting down some of the most talented lines assembled. Some hockey players could be overwhelmed saddled with that level of responsibility, but Flyers general manager Ron Hextall believes Provorov would have handled the pressure with the same calmness and composure of playing 20-25 minutes every night in the NHL. 

“I don’t think he’s the type of kid that needs a shot in the arm or perform at a certain event to elevate his game,” said Hextall. “Ivan’s a very driven player. He brings a terrific focus and work ethic to the rink every day. I guess you can always say it may benefit him, but I think Ivan playing in the NHL every day as a young kid is benefitting him right now as well.”
Why Provorov doesn’t harbor the resentment like other players around the league, including teammate Jake Voracek, is that he doesn’t exactly know what he’s missing out on. His Olympic dream is on hiatus, and come 2022 in Beijing, Provorov will be 25 and arguably in the prime of his career. 

“I’m young, so hopefully in 4 years I’ll have another chance to go.”

AHL allowing players on minor-league deals to go to Olympics

AHL allowing players on minor-league deals to go to Olympics

Players on American Hockey League contracts will be eligible to play in the 2018 Winter Olympics.

President and CEO David Andrews confirmed through a league spokesman Wednesday that teams were informed they could loan players on AHL contracts to national teams for the purposes of participating in the Pyeongchang Olympics.

The AHL sent a memo to its 30 clubs saying players could only be loaned for Olympic participation from Feb. 5-26.

The Olympic men's hockey tournament runs from Feb. 9-25. Like the NHL, which is not having its players participate for the first time since 1994, the AHL does not have an Olympic break in its schedule.

The AHL's decision does not affect players assigned to that league on NHL one- or two-way contracts. No final decision has been made about those players.

NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly denied a Canadian Broadcasting Corporation report that the league had told its 31 teams that AHL players could be loaned to play in the Olympics. It was an AHL memo sent at the direction of that league's board of governors.

When the NHL announced in April that it wouldn't be sending players to South Korea after participating in five consecutive Olympics, Andrews said the AHL was prepared for Canada, the United States and other national federations to request players.

"I would guess we're going to lose a fair number of players," Andrews said in April. "Not just to Canada and the U.S., but we're going to lose some players to other teams, as well. But we're used to that. Every team in our league has usually got two or three guys who are on recalls to the NHL, so it's not going to really change our competitive integrity or anything else."

The U.S. and Canada are expected to rely heavily on players in European professional leagues and college and major junior hockey to fill out Olympic rosters without NHL players.

Jakub Voracek lashes out at Bill Daly, Gary Bettman over Olympic indecision

Jakub Voracek lashes out at Bill Daly, Gary Bettman over Olympic indecision

TORONTO -- Commissioner Gary Bettman's stance on the NHL participation, or lack thereof, in the 2018 Winter Games in South Korea hasn't changed one iota and at least one Flyer -- Jakub Voracek -- remains upset.

"It's stupid and I find it absolutely ridiculous," said Voracek, who represented the Czech Republic at the 2014 Winter Games in Sochi, Russia.

But during this week's NHL general manager meetings in Boca Raton, Florida, Bettman didn't provide any kind of update that would have made Voracek feel any better about the situation.

"There's absolutely nothing new," Bettman told reporters.
"And I think the overwhelming sentiment of the teams is that it's very disruptive on the season and there's somewhere between fatigue and negativity on the subject."
There remains a strong consensus among players throughout the league to attend the Winter Games, regardless of the logistical issues and time differences for broadcasts of games from Pyeongchang, South Korea.
"Unless something changes, we're not going," deputy commissioner Bill Daly told Canadian Press. "We've said that consistently for three months, so there's nothing new about that."
That comment, in particular, angered Voracek, who spoke to during Thursday's morning skate hours before the Flyers' 4-2 defeat in Toronto.
"Absolutely ridiculous," Voracek said. "We have it once every four years. I read something that Bill Daly said we're not going. Nobody wants you to go.
"The players want to go. Why are you saying you're not going? You're not part of the players' association. ... Nobody wants you there. They want the players."
Bettman said the NHL is already putting together its schedule for next season and it doesn’t include an Olympic break.
Interestingly, Bettman did say that the league has strong interest in the 2022 Games in China, mentioning that those Games present the NHL with some strong business opportunities and partnerships.
"It's the Olympics," Voracek said. "It's not just about business. You want to be part of the Olympics. And trust me, players want to go. And the players who don't go get a week off to recharge their batteries. If you have bumps and bruises, you can heal and recover.
"The players want to go, I guarantee you that. I want to see how you are going to hold (Alex) Ovechkin back. The Russian players. Tell them they can't go."
While the NHL consistently harps on shutting down for up to 17 days, it hasn't stopped the league from going to the previous five Olympics.
One more thing -- that Bettman hasn't said flat-out that it's over means there is still time to salvage NHL participation.
After all, everything in life is negotiable.