Vladislav Tretiak

Alex Ovechkin
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Alex Ovechkin must accept missing Olympics, Russia hockey boss says

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Alex Ovechkin shouldn’t expect to play at the PyeongChang Olympics, Russia hockey federation boss Vladislav Tretiak reportedly said Wednesday.

Tretiak was quoted after reports earlier this month quoting NHL and IIHF officials saying that the two bodies would work together to not allow NHL players on Olympic rosters.

However, IIHF president Rene Fasel said Tuesday, “For some individuals [NHL players] who said they will come we will have to see how we will do it,” according to Reuters. That potentially left the door open.

Tretiak seemed to close it.

“What is there for Ovechkin to do now? Nothing. Play for Washington,” the legendary Soviet goalie said in Russian in an R-Sport article, according to a Washington Post translation. “He has to accept that.”

Ovechkin was once adamant that he would play in PyeongChang despite the NHL’s non-participation. But last month he slightly changed his stance.

“We’ll hope I’ll be allowed to participate,” he said in Russian, according to Sport-Express via a Washington Post translation. “There’s always a chance.”

Ovechkin could address this issue again once Washington Capitals preseason camp starts Friday.

The NHL announced in April that it would not send players to the Olympics for the first time since 1994. That’s when Ovechkin was very firm in saying he would defy the league.

“I said already, I’m going and it doesn’t matter what,” Ovechkin said on April 4.

A key man in this situation is Washington Capitals owner Ted Leonsis, who has not been quoted in mainstream media on the Ovechkin issue since April.

Leonsis supported Ovechkin last year but backed off a bit in April, according to a Sports Business Daily story after the NHL announcement.

“What the league now does with the IOC, I will wait to see what happens,” Leonsis said, according to the report.

NHL commissioner Gary Bettman has repeated that the league expects all NHL players to stay with their clubs during the Olympics. The league has not announced what sanctions, if any, players (or their clubs) would face for going to the Olympics.

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Russian hockey team knows ‘whole country is behind us’

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SOCHI, Russia — The entire Russian men’s hockey team held a press conference Tuesday at the Main Media Center. You’ll forgive the blurriness of the image, but I wanted you to see the set-up, because it was meant to be symbolic. This is a team, the Russians wanted to demonstrate. It wasn’t just a handful of superstars, and some other guys.

In the middle was legendary goalie Vladislav Tretiak, now the president of the Ice Hockey Federation of Russia. Vice captain Alex Ovechkin sat to the right of coach Zinetula Bilyaletdinov, who sat to the right of Tretiak. Captain Pavel Datsyuk, along with vice captains Evgeni Malkin and Ilya Kovalchuk, were also front and center. The rest were up there for a show of solidarity. It was extremely unlikely they were ever going to talk.

“I think all of us here together decided to appear at this press conference as a team because we want to show we are one team,” said Tretiak via interpreter. “It is a team sport and it is up to the entire team to get the gold, and that is why we are here together to talk to you.”

As expected, the big names got the questions. Occasionally, the Russian press corps and volunteers broke into applause, which is something you don’t see in North America.

“We do believe that as now we are playing on the home turf we will have even more brothers,” Datsyuk said via interpreter. “The whole country is behind us.”

It’s worth mentioning at this point that if you had to pick the two most famous losses in Russian hockey history, you’d probably pick the 1972 Summit Series versus Canada and the 1980 Winter Olympics, where they were shocked by the United States.

Related: Are expectations too high for Russia?

That ’80 Miracle on Ice team has been celebrated as one of the greatest teams — in the truest sense of the word — ever. And Tretiak said today that the underdog Americans taught the Soviets an important lesson about respecting one’s opponent.

As for ’72 , here’s what Canadian hero Paul Henderson once said about the heavily favored Canadian squad that had to pull together and battle back versus the Soviets: “I would say that at the start of that [series], we really weren’t a team, we were a bunch of individuals. But as the series went on, we became a team. And even today, guys that never played a game feel every bit as much a part of the team as guys who played all eight games.”

That kind of bond is what the Russians are hoping to build here in Sochi. The other teams are hoping for that too, of course, but given the number of times the “Not a team player” label has been attached to the likes of Ovechkin, Kovalchuk, Radulov, and so many other star Russian players in the modern era, it will be especially interesting to see how this group comes together.

“When we lost to the Canadians [in 2010], it was a big blow to us, a big failure, a big blow to everyone in Russia,” Ovechkin said via interpreter.

On Thursday versus Slovenia, the quest for redemption moves from the dais to the ice.

Ilya Kovalchuk should be Russia flagbearer, Vladislav Tretiak says

Ilya Kovalchuk
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A candidate to light the Sochi Olympic cauldron has one man in mind to carry another Russian honor at the Opening Ceremony.

Vladislav Tretiak, the legendary, three-time Olympic champion Soviet goalie, said current Russian hockey star forward Ilya Kovalchuk should be the Russian flagbearer at the Opening Ceremony.

“When people have come up to me and asked who could carry the Russian flag, I named Kovalchuk,” said Tretiak, 61, president of the Russian Hockey Federation, according to R-Sport. “He deserves it. I don’t want to offend the other players like [Pavel] Datsyuk, [Evgeni] Malkin or [Alex] Ovechkin, but they’ll be in Sochi later.”

He’s right. There might not be any NHL players at the Opening Ceremony on Feb. 7 because the NHL season does not begin its Olympic break until Feb. 9.

Kovalchuk, 30, does not play in the NHL anymore. He signed a 15-year, $100 million deal with the New Jersey Devils in September 2010 but now plays for SKA St. Petersburg after retiring from the NHL in July 2013.

He’s a three-time Olympian for Russia, winning bronze with the 2002 team.

Russia’s other top athletes seen as candidates to carry its flag in the Parade of Nations include three-time Olympic medalist figure skater Yevgeny Plushenko, two-time medalist bobsled driver Aleksander Zubkov and 2006 silver medalist luger Albert Demtchenko.

In 2010, Russia’s Opening Ceremony flagbearer was also a KHL player, former Pittsburgh Penguins forward Aleksey Morozov.

Plushenko was the Closing Ceremony flagbearer in 2006.

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