Los Angeles (AFP) - National Hockey League players on Tuesday voiced disappointment with the standoff that threatens to bar them from playing in next year's Winter Olympics, with some vowing to play in the Games regardless of the consequences.
The NHL announced on Monday that it would not restructure its season to accommodate the Winter Olympics, effectively ruling the league's stars out of the Games in Pyeongchang, South Korea.
But the move, which has been criticised by the International Olympic Committee, met with dismay amongst many NHL players.
"I didn't change my mind and I won't," Ovechkin told reporters Tuesday.
"Because it's my country. I think everybody wants to play there. It's the biggest opportunity in your life to play in the Olympic Games. So, I don't know, somebody (is) going to tell me 'don't go,' I don't care, I just go."
Ovechkin's decision to put country before club puts the Russian star on a potential collision course with league chiefs.
Capitals owner Ted Leonsis however said last year he would back Ovechkin in any dispute over the Olympics.
"If Alex Ovechkin says, 'This is really important to me to go represent and play for my country,' I’m going to support him," Leonsis said. "What's the worst that could happen? We’ll get fined or something."
Ovechkin meanwhile said he was optimistic that a compromise between the NHL and Olympic chiefs could be brokered.
"Right now, it's still time to make a decision; you can say whatever, but next year's schedule is not out yet," Ovechkin said.
"So if the schedule is not going to the Olympic Games, then you can see they don't bluff. But again, still long time, still everything can change."
- Crosby: 'A difficult situation' -
Ovechkin's teammate and compatriot Evgeny Kuznetsov also said he would play the Olympics if selected.
"I still hope the NHL will let us play," he said. "But nothing is going to change my point of view... if Russia needs us, of course."
Capitals defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk, who played for the USA at the 2014 Games, was also critical of the NHL move.
"I think we deserve to go and the world deserves to see hockey at that level," he said. "I don't see why we wouldn't do it."
Canadian superstar Sidney Crosby voiced dismay at the failure to resolve the dispute, but did not confirm if he planned to play in the Olympics regardless.
"When you hear about the negotiations and things like that, I really thought something was going to be able to get worked out," Crosby told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. "Unfortunately that's not the case."
"It's a difficult situation to be in, there's no doubt. But I know some guys have been vocal about going regardless. I'm not sure if I'm thinking quite that far ahead yet. It's something that just happened. It's something you have to think about."
Other international stars from the NHL were similarly frustrated.
Penguins forward Tom Kuhnhackl said he would rue missing the opportunity to play for Germany, who qualified for the Olympics.
"Obviously it's really frustrating," Kuhnhackl told the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review.
"Especially for a country like Germany, it's not an everyday thing where we get to go to the Olympics. I think for players, going to the Olympics is a privilege. It's an awesome thing, especially for Germany. Obviously it would've been nice to go there. It's just really frustrating."