Alex Ovechkin appears to have accepted his dream of representing Russia at the 2018 Winter Olympics is dead.
On the eve of Washington Capitals training camp, Ovechkin released a lengthy statement through the team detailing why playing in the Olympics are important to him while also expressing his disappointment in the NHL’s decision not to allow its players to participate.
To this point, Ovechkin has publicly held out hope that, with Capitals owner Ted Leonsis’s support, he would be able to defy the league and play for Russia, even with the NHL seeking to avoid a disruption to the regular season schedule, for the PyeongChang Games in February. But now that the league has assurance from the International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF), which oversees international competitions, that NHL players under contract won’t be allowed to participate, Ovechkin acknowledged on Thursday night that the choice has been taken away from him.
Here is the full statement:
“I wanted to make this statement so that my words are clear and nobody misunderstands what I am saying. The Olympics are in my blood and everybody knows how much I love my country. Ever since I was a kid and all the time I have played in the NHL, NHL players have played in the Olympic Games. We never have to make choice between our team and our country my whole career. I love the Capitals and my teammates here as much as I love my country and I know all the other NHL players feel the same for their teams. We should not have to be in position to make this choice.
My mom was a two-time Olympic champion and when I start to play hockey I dream that if I have chance to play for my country I will do it every time they ask me. Ever since I was teenager I have played for Junior Russia National team whenever they ask me to. Ever since I was good enough to play on Men’s National Team, whenever they ask me I play. When they ask me to be part of Olympics Closing Ceremony in Vancouver before Sochi get the Olympic Games I said ok let’s do it. When they ask me to be Ambassador for Sochi Olympic Games I did it. When they ask me to go to Greece and be first Russian to carry Olympic flame on way to Sochi I do it. When they ask me to play in World Cup I do it. I am proud that we win on Junior team and for the National team in World Championships but we do not win the most important thing yet. Olympic Gold Medal.
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!!
I said every time I was asked since last Olympics that nobody is going to tell me I can’t play because my country was going to be allowed to ask me. 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. I talk to Ted about this last year and he support me and have my back and understand what I want to do if I was allowed to be asked to go. Me and my family thank him for his support.
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.”
The statement comes on the heels of Vladislav Tretiak, the head of the Russian Hockey Federation, telling reporters on Wednesday that Ovechkin needs to accept he will be unable to participate, according to Russian news site R-Sport.
“What is there for Ovechkin to do now? Nothing. Play for Washington,” Tretiak told R-Sport, as translated by The Washington Post. “He has to accept that.”
Speaking to reporters in Russia just last month, Ovechkin said “there’s always a chance” he would be allowed to participate. But those comments seemed subdued compared to those he made in April, when the NHL first announced its decision not to allow its players to attend the Olympics. While other players expressed disappointment in the NHL’s decision, Ovechkin was most outspoken in his intention to participate anyway. “I didn’t change my mind, and I won’t,” he said then. “ … Somebody going to tell me don’t go, I don’t care. I just go.”
The statement indicates Ovechkin has now dropped the fight to play in these Olympics, perhaps hoping to avoid a distraction for the Capitals this season. Ovechkin has represented Russia at the last three Winter Games, but has yet to win a medal.
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