Caps star Alex Ovechkin, hockey legend Vladislav Tretiak and figure skater Evgeni Plushenko were among those who represented Russia in the Vancouver Games' Closing Ceremony tonight. Ovechkin and his countrymen, wearing jackets with the phrase "See you in Sochi" emblazoned on the back, stood with young Russian children and waved to the crowd as the Olympic flag was lowered and presented to the hosts of the next Winter Games.
Ovechkin's Russians lost to Canada, 7-3, in the quarterfinals Wednesday, and teammates Semyon Varlamov and Alexander Semin have already returned to Washington. But Ovechkin, an ambassador for Russia's Sochi Games in 2014, stayed in Vancouver to represent his country.
While the NHL has yet to make a decision regarding its players' participation in the 2014 Olympics, Ovechkin has been one of the most outspoken athletes on the topic.
"Everybody wants to play, the Olympics is the biggest tournament in hockey, I think," he said in November. "The Olympics, it's only one year, you have only maybe one chance to play in the Olympic Games. If somebody says you can't play in the Olympic Games, it's going to be no good."
Commissioner Gary Bettman has made clear his stance on the Olympics, which risk injury to players and present virtually no reward to owners. He has also expressed concerns about the significant time difference in Russia, which would mean games will be played when many Americans are asleep.
The Olympics are important to Ovechkin not only because of his desire to represent Russia -- and win gold -- on home soil, but because it's family tradition. His mother, Tatiana, is a two-time Olympic champion in basketball.