VANCOUVER, British Columbia — Washington Capitals star Alex Ovechkin(notes) had a disappointing Winter Games. On the ice, he had four points in four games, but zero points in Russia's losses to Slovakia and Canada, who eliminated Ovechkin's team from the tournament in a historic humiliation.
Off the ice, his interaction with the media (or lack thereof) had ESPN write that Ovechkin "looked like a child" while his paparazzi/hand-over-video-camera moment spread around the world on YouTube; The Hockey News went as far as to suggest that the NHL suspend Ovechkin in the neighborhood of Sean Avery's(notes) six games for a sex joke. (Which is to say that The Hockey News went too far; it's a ludicrous notion, made more so by a column that started with "none of us know the details ...")
The Olympics are, essentially, a collection of memorable and symbolic moments. Which is why it would be impressive and important for Ovechkin to participate in Closing Ceremony, which is the scuttlebutt both here and back in Washington.
The organizers have allegedly extended the invitation, but there's been no formal confirmation of his participation. One scenario has Ovechkin literally being passed the torch from the Winter Games of Vancouver to the 2014 Winter Games of Sochi, for which Ovechkin is the official ambassador.
The NHLPA told us that Olympic players had until Monday to report to the NHL teams, and we've learned Ovechkin is expected back in Washington on Monday. The Closing Ceremony is scheduled for Sunday, with everyone from Nickelback to Avril Lavigne rumored as performers.
For Ovie, an appearance at the Closing Ceremony is important for two reasons. First, as a reminder that no matter what his behavior in Vancouver indicated to the contrary, he's always been a player who says "da" more than "nyet" to requests for his participation in events, interviews and appearances.
Second, as a symbolic reminder that the NHL should take part in the Sochi Games, as there's virtually no way the Russian players will miss them now that hockey redemption on home ice is paramount on their minds.
Reputational hits be damned, Ovechkin remains the biggest hockey star on the planet and the most important ambassador for the game internationally. That's what made his time in Vancouver frustrating for many who understand that importance. There's still time for an image realignment; here's hoping he takes part in the Closing Ceremony in some capacity.