Alex Ovechkin on playing in Olympics: 'I didn't change my mind and I won't'

Washington Capitals star Alex Ovechkin confirmed that he still intends to compete in the 2018 Winter Olympics one day after the NHL announced that it will not interrupt its season to accommodate the event.

“Yeah, I didn’t change my mind, and I won’t,” he told reporters in Toronto.

“It’s my country,” he added. “I think everybody wants to play there. It’s the biggest opportunity of your life to play in an Olympic Games.”

Ovechkin has asserted previously that he will represent Russia regardless of what the NHL decides, so his comments Tuesday remained consistent with his stance all along. Meanwhile his owner, Ted Leonsis, one of the 31 tycoons that NHL commissioner Gary Bettman reports directly to, has supported his captain’s resolve, indicating that he would grant Ovechkin permission to compete in his fourth Olympics.

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But for Ovechkin, and those with similar designs, it won’t be as simple as receiving the green light from those who cut their cheques. We should expect the NHL to impose a rigid mandate in an effort to discourage players from even broaching the topic with their individual owners.

Washington Capitals star Alex Ovechkin says he still intends to represent Russia in Pyeonchang. Scott D Stivason/CSM/REX/Shutterstock
Washington Capitals star Alex Ovechkin says he still intends to represent Russia in Pyeonchang. Scott D Stivason/CSM/REX/Shutterstock

This inevitably is something Ovechkin will hold off considering until after the season.

“Right now we’re focusing on the game, and we’re focusing on the playoffs. After the season (I will) talk to Ted.”

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Though Ovechkin’s spirit for Olympic competition is unsurpassed, it’s also representative of a comprehensive enthusiasm on the part of the players. It’s become the standard for international competition, and the truest measure of hockey superiority since NHL players were first included in 1998.

Ovechkin has not won a medal at the Olympics. Russia lost to Czech Republic in the bronze-medal match in the 2006 Winter Olympics in Turin, placed sixth in Vancouver, and lost to Finland in the quarterfinal on home soil three years ago in Sochi.

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