Having already been named a torchbearer for the 2014 Winter Games in Sochi, Russia, Alex Ovechkin would likely participate regardless of whether he gets the blessing from his National Hockey League club.
But Washington Capitals owner Ted Leonsis has already given the Great 8 the green light to suit up for Team Russia’s men’s ice hockey team, even if the NHL decides its players will not be permitted to fly to Sochi a year from now.
Ted Leonsis says he will let Alex Ovechkin go to Sochi regardless of whether all NHL players are allowed.
— Katie Carrera (@kcarrera) January 17, 2013
There is no mention of the players’ ability to play in the next Olympic tournament in the new collective bargaining agreement.
“It was never brought up, discussed at all during the (labour) negotiations. If they don’t and Alex still wants to go to the Olympics, I’m going to be honest, I’m going to let him go,” Leonsis told The Washington Post on Thursday. “I just think it’s kind of a once-in-a-lifetime thing for him to have something played in Russia. He’s going to be a torchbearer and it’s very important to him and his family. Who am I to get in the way of him wanting to fulfill that? And I know that’s a slippery slope because if Nick (Backstrom) says then he wants to play for Sweden, we’ll have to cross that bridge when we get to it. But I think that I’m going to lean to the side of the players in that one.”
A proud Russian, Ovechkin was welcomed warmly by hockey fans in his native country during the lockout, during which he scored 40 points in 31 games played for the KHL’s Moscow Dynamo.
He has said repeatedly that he intends to represent Russia in next year’s Olympics.
“It’s a players league. If the union and the players demand and really want to go to the Olympics, then we should let them,” Leonsis told the Post. “I think it’s great for the league, but the players should drive that and they have the union to do that in discussions.”