Datsyuk named Russian captain for Olympics

Led by Alex Ovechkin and Ilya Kovalchuk, the home team in Sochi will be the biggest challenge Canada faces while they try to defend gold.

Alex Ovechkin was the first Russian athlete to carry the Olympic torch, but Pavel Datsyuk will be Russia’s captain in Sochi.

With the support of Ovechkin, Datsyuk was named captain of the Russian men’s hockey team on Wednesday as the 35-year-old Detroit Red Wings centre prepares to participate in his fourth Olympics.

"I am honoured to be named a captain," Datsyuk said via Twitter. "Our team embraces the opportunity and responsibility of representing our country on the home ice."

Ovechkin, last year’s Hart Trophy-winner as NHL MVP, is considered the face of next month’s Sochi Olympics. He is the only Russian-born captain in the NHL but told reporters at Washington Capitals practice last week that he thought Datsyuk should have that role in Sochi.

"To be honest with you, that kind of type of player, he has respect on the ice and off the ice," Ovechkin said. "My opinion is who (should) be captain is Datsyuk."

Ovechkin said that day he was not sure if he would be named an alternate.

Datsyuk, who has been out of action since the Winter Classic on Jan. 1 with a lower-body injury, leads all active Russian players with 799 career points. Ovechkin is third with 782. Defenceman Sergei Gonchar is second with 788 but did not make the team.

The other candidate to be captain was Ilya Kovalchuk, who left the New Jersey Devils to play for St. Petersburg in the Kontinental Hockey League. Kovalchuk could be Russia’s flag-bearer at the opening ceremonies.

"Nobody has talked to me about it, yet," Kovalchuk told the Associated Press. "It would be a big honour. Whoever they pick is going to feel real good about carrying the flag."

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