Washington Capitals owner Ted Leonis has gone on record saying he will support superstar Alex Ovechkin‘s desire to participate in the 2018 Winter Games regardless if the NHL hops aboard, reports ESPN’s Craig Custance.
As he did prior to the 2014 Games in Sochi, Ovechkin said at the World Cup of Hockey that he would represent his native Russia in Pyeongchang, South Korea, even if the NHL and its Players’ Association decide to stay home.
“It’s a situation where you don’t know what’s going to happen,” Ovechkin said on Sept. 15. “But obviously I said I’m going to play.
“I will go there.”
Despite the board of governors convening this week in Florida to discuss Olympic participation, among other subjects, the league appears no closer to a decision that has become additionally complicated with the possibility of opening CBA negotiations.
NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly and commissioner Gary Bettman both responded to Ovechkin’s stance in September.
“I don’t have a league reaction to that. If that became a prevailing view of a group of players, or a significant group of players, I might have a different view,” Daly said.
“But at this point it’s a single superstar player who will have a contract with one of our clubs, and the club will handle that within its own discretion.”
If push comes to shove, the onus of handling Ovechkin’s departure shifts to Leonsis, who won’t stand in the player’s way. This is all hypothetical, the commissioner points out.
“We’re not going to speculate on things that at earliest are years ahead and may or may not ever come to fruition,” Bettman said, regarding Ovechkin.
The International Olympic Committee’s reluctance to picking up transportation, insurance, and accommodation costs for players and their guests remain obstacles in the sluggish negotiation process between the IOC, IIHF and NHL.
“When you have 30 teams and 700 or 800 players, everyone’s got a different opinion,” Wayne Gretzky told reporters Friday. He was representing the Edmonton Oilers at the board of governors meeting. “I’m a big believer in the Olympic Games. I happen to love everything about the Olympic Games.
“Since we first went in ’98 in Nagano, the NHL players not only promote our sport, but they do a really nice job of being around the other athletes, and it helps every sport in our country. I think it’s a positive, but I’m not the only guy that has say in this.”