February 12, 2009
Dmitry passes along a preview of an Alexander Ovechkin interview with Sovietsky Sport that will run next week in which the Washington Capitals star makes it clear that Russian NHL players missing the 2014 Winter Olympics in Russia is not an option.
From SovSport, translated into English:
Alex, which one of the world of hockey trophies are you missing the most? And which one of the ones you have won is the most treasured?
All of my awards are valuable because they were earned with hard work. But the first place I would give to the gold medal from the World Championships in Quebec. What's missing... I have yet to win the Olympics and the Stanley Cup. It is difficult to compare the two tournaments. You represent your own country at the Winter Games. The Olympic Games take place only once every four years. And it's not winning, but even attending the Games is a difficult [achievement]. The Stanley Cup - you play 82 games in the regular season. You work as a horse to make the playoffs and work even more once you get there. Completely different priorities. But my goal is to win both of those trophies.
Can you imagine the NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman not letting you go to the Sochi Olympics in 2014?
The Games will be held in my homeland. I don't even want to hear the talks of someone not letting me go to the Olympics. If I don't make it to Sochi it will be a tragedy for me.
What's the way out? Are you going to approach the Capitals owner Ted Leonsis and ask for an unpaid month off?
You have to understand that the Sochi Olympics is the question of prestige. It's the matter of [my] entire life. How can I be forbidden from playing for my country, especially at home? If they want to create and obstacle they why us, Russian NHL players, should participate in the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver? It seems that we are raising the ratings of a tournament that will take place in Canada. And they don't want to let us go to Russia.
What to do?
The decision whether NHL players will participate in [future] Olympics will be taken in 2012, when the league and the NHLPA sign a new CBA. If we are prevented... I won't understand it. This shouldn't happen. It is not nice. It is wrong.
The NHL was asking for this headache by participating in the Olympics in the first place.
If the host cities were reversed and Vancouver was in 2014, there wouldn't even be a debate about pulling out of the Olympics. We all know this, and it just fuels the animosity some Russian players have towards the NHL's alleged cultural biases.
Russian players are, at this moment, some of the biggest assets the NHL has domestically and internationally as marketable stars. To deny the current crop, or the next wave, their chance to compete in their homeland is a fight that the NHL should not want nor will it win. Better luck in 2018 ...