TORONTO – The National Hockey League does not sound too concerned with Alex Ovechkin’s intent to skate at the 2018 Winter Olympics regardless if the league participates—but the Washington Capitals might be.
As he did prior to the 2014 Games in Sochi, Ovechkin reiterated at the beginning of 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.”
NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly and commissioner Gary Bettman both responded to Ovechkin’s stance Tuesday at the announcement of the league’s centennial celebration plans.
“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.”
So if push comes to shove, the onus of handling Ovechkin’s departure shifts to Washington. 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.
The International Olympic Committee’s reluctance to picking up transportation, insurance, and accommodation costs for players and their guests, Daly said, remain obstacles in the sluggish negotiation process between the IOC, IIHF and NHL.
Daly said he was less optimistic about Olympic participation than he was two weeks ago.
“The sooner, the better. I hope and think we need to have a final decision soon,” Daly said.
“The end of the calendar year is probably too late, but again, I’m not setting a deadline. I would hope in the next two months we make progress in getting to an answer.”