Three days after the Washington Capitals were eliminated from the Stanley Cup playoffs, Alex Ovechkin and Russia were knocked out of the IIHF World Championship.
Ovechkin left Washington Tuesday night, a day before the Capitals’ breakdown day, so he could play for Russia.
While some believe Ovechkin should have been present for the team’s final gathering in Arlington, Coach Adam Oates said he understands how important it is for the 27-year-old winger to be able to play for his country.
“I met with him [Tuesday]. We talked. It’s important that people understand that where he comes from, it’s a very important thing in his country. We totally respect that. No problem at all,” Oates said Wednesday. “If I said no, he would have stayed. We talked about it. I talked about it with George. The Olympics are there next year, that country. It’s a very, very important thing for them.
“He gets a tremendous amount of pressure. It did not affect his play here at all. He texted me after the game, 20 times til 2 in the morning. He was very upset,” Oates continued. “I think he’s come tremendously far as a person and player this year. That’s just a very unique thing in our business. They have that World Cup and I never played in it and I hated it. It’s the stupidest thing in the world. You lose here and tomorrow they want you to go play in some tournament. For the Canadian and American guys, it doesn’t make sense. But for the European guys, I understand it.”