With the NHL's Olympic participation in serious doubt, Washington Capitals owner Ted Leonsis reaffirmed his support Friday of Alex Ovechkin should the team captain choose to leave in the middle of the NHL season to go to the Olympics.
Leonsis addressed Ovechkin's stance at the NHL's Board of Governors meeting.
"He has given a lot to our team and he doesn’t ask for much in return and whatever he likes to do in this one, I’ll support him,” Leonsis said, per Josh Cooper of Puck Daddy. "His mother was an Olympian. It’s a part of the tradition in the family and it is meaningful to him, and he’s kind of the ambassador and captain of the team. We don’t sit and talk about this all the time, but he needs to know, and he does know, that in this one instance I’ll have his back.”
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Leonsis made a similar statement in October when Ovechkin first made clear his intention to play in Pyeongchang.
Ovechkin first stated he would leave to play in Sochi for the 2014 Olympics even if the NHL did not participate. At media day for the World Cup of Hockey, Ovechkin vowed again to leave the Caps midseason in 2018 to participate in the Pyeongchang Olympics.
The difference in the two situations is that Olympic participation is not a guarantee in 2018. It seemed very unlikely that the NHL would not play in Sochi considering how many Russian players are in the league.
The outlook for Pyeongchang, however, is much more bleak. Just one month ago, NHL commissioner Gary Bettman called NHL participation in the 2018 games "unlikely." The NHL recently made an offer to the NHLPA saying they would agree to participation if the players would agree to extending the CBA, an offer the NHLPA rejected.
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