Sweden’s top skater rules out defying NHL for Olympic place

AP
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Swedish defenseman Erik Karlsson, the only player to make the NHL’s First All-Star Team each of the last three seasons, will not be going to the PyeongChang Olympics.

The Ottawa Senators captain said he will not follow the lead of Russian Alex Ovechkin, who has said he plans to play in PyeongChang despite the NHL not taking a schedule break to send players to the Winter Games.

“You can have guys go and ask their owners if they can go and play,” Karlsson said on Sportsnet on Thursday. “Am I going to do that? Would I like to do that? Yeah, I would like to go to play in the Olympics. But am I going to? I’m not. I’m not going to leave in the middle of February, leave my teammates, go and ask if I can go do something on my own. So yeah, the door is completely shut, unfortunately, for NHL players to go and play in the Olympics.”

Not exactly. Ovechkin could still go, though the NHL hasn’t yet announced what punishments — if any — players and teams would face for Olympic participation.

International Ice Hockey Federation president Rene Fasel said his organization and the NHL have a verbal agreement to respect the NHL’s decision and not allow NHL players in PyeongChang, according to Sport-Express in Russia on Friday. That would mean that if Ovechkin is under contract with the Washington Capitals come February, he wouldn’t be allowed to play in PyeongChang.

Another Russian superstar, Evgeni Malkin, recently said he’s still holding out hope to be an Olympic exception.

Both USA Hockey and Hockey Canada are moving on, saying their 25-man Olympic teams will be made up of players not in the NHL.

Karlsson led Sweden to silver in Sochi, tying for the tournament lead with eight points and being named the best defenseman at the Winter Games.

Karlsson had previously declined to discuss whether he would try to play in PyeongChang back in April, when the NHL announced it would not send players to the Olympics for the first time since 1994.

Sweden’s longtime starting goalie, Henrik Lundqvist, has expressed disappointment (like many players) about the NHL-Olympic situation but hasn’t announced whether he will try and go the Ovechkin route. Neither has Sidney Crosby.

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