Alex Ovechkin: I’m still going to PyeongChang Olympics, NHL may be bluffing

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Alex Ovechkin still plans to go to the PyeongChang Olympics and believes the NHL may be bluffing with its announcement that it will not participate in the Winter Games next year.

“I didn’t change my mind, and I won’t,” Ovechkin said Tuesday before a game in Toronto. “It’s [playing for] my country. I think everybody wants to play there, and it’s biggest opportunity in your life to play in Olympic Games, so I don’t know, somebody going to tell me like don’t go, I don’t care. I just go.”

Ovechkin believes the NHL will go back on its announcement and participate in a sixth straight Olympics. He noted that the NHL has not announced its 2017-18 season schedule. It usually does not make that announcement until June.

“If the schedule is going on [during] the Olympic Games, then yeah, you can see they don’t bluff,” Ovechkin said. “But again, still long time. Everything can change. But in my mind, like I said already, I’m going and it doesn’t matter what.”

Ovechkin repeated that Capitals owner Ted Leonsis understands his view. Leonsis has been on the record as being supportive of allowing Ovechkin and other Capitals players to go to PyeongChang without the NHL’s consent.

“I just say my mind what I think,” Ovechkin said. “After the season, we’re going to talk. I’m going to talk to Ted.”

Ovechkin has been saying since 2015 that he will play in PyeongChang regardless of the NHL’s stance. He and Capitals teammate Evgeny Kuznetsov, also a Russian, are the biggest league stars who have been outspoken in this way.

Both Sidney Crosby and Erik Karlsson were asked after the NHL’s decision if they would push for an Olympic spot like Ovechkin. Crosby said he had not thought about it yet. Karlsson reportedly declined to answer.

Ovechkin compared this year’s situation to four years ago, when the NHL didn’t announce Sochi Olympic participation until seven months before those Winter Games. However, the NHL reportedly had a handshake agreement for Sochi in February 2013.

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MORE: As NHL stars react to Olympics, who will follow Ovechkin’s lead?