On the eve of media day at Kettler Capitals Iceplex, Alex Ovechkin answered a question that was looming over the Capitals’ 2017-18 season before it was even asked: the Russian superstar now concedes that he won’t participate in February’s Olympic Games.
From a heartfelt statement Ovechkin released late Thursday night:
“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!!”
On Friday, Ovechkin will face questions from local reporters for the first time since Washington's playoff ouster last May as training camp gets underway in Arlington, Va.
Ovechkin had previously said that he intended to suit up for Russia in PyeongChang, regardless of the NHL’s decision not to participate. The NHL sent its players to the past five Olympics, dating to 1998.
Last week, though, NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly told Pierre LeBrun of The Athletic that the International Ice Hockey Federation had assured the league it would not permit any player currently on an NHL contract to participate in the Olympics.
In other words, the decision was no longer up to Ovechkin. The sanctioning body of the Olympic tournament said he could not go.
“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.”
Ovechkin, who turns 32 on Sunday, also said he hopes to return to Olympic competition at the 2022 Games but added that it’s now time for him to turn his focus to his other childhood dream: hoisting a Stanley Cup.
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.