Alex Ovechkin had the final word on Olympic hockey. 645 words, actually. With two exclamation points.
“Our countries are now not allowed to ask us to play in the Olympics,” Ovechkin said in a statement posted by the Washington Capitals late Thursday night. “Me, my teammates and all players who want to go all lose. So do all the fans of hockey with this decision that we are not allowed to be invited. NHL players in the Olympics is good for hockey and good for Olympics. It sucks that will we not be there to play!!”
Ovechkin, 31, spent the last two years adamantly saying he would play for Russia at a fourth straight Olympics in PyeongChang.
Even after many other superstars accepted the NHL’s decision in April not to participate in the Winter Games for the first time since 1994.
Now, Ovechkin is saying he will not play for Russia because the decision has been taken away from him.
“I said every time I was asked since last Olympics that nobody is going to tell me I can’t play because my country was going to be allowed to ask me,” Ovechkin said. “Now the IIHF and NHL say my country is not allowed to ask anybody in the NHL to play, and there is nothing to talk about anymore.”
IIHF and NHL officials reportedly said earlier this month that the two bodies would work together to not allow NHL players on Olympic rosters.
The IIHF held out hope for months that an agreement could be reached, or at the very least that exceptions could be made for individual NHL players.
Russia will still likely have the most NHL experience of the 12 Olympic hockey rosters, given its top domestic league, the KHL, will send players to PyeongChang.
The KHL, the world’s second-best league behind the NHL, is home to former NHL All-Stars Pavel Datsyuk and Ilya Kovalchuk.
Ovechkin’s full statement:
“I wanted to make this statement so that my words are clear and nobody misunderstands what I am saying. The Olympics are in my blood and everybody knows how much I love my country. Ever since I was a kid and all the time I have played in the NHL, NHL players have played in the Olympic Games. We never have to make choice between our team and our country my whole career. I love the Capitals and my teammates here as much as I love my country and I know all the other NHL players feel the same for their teams. We should not have to be in position to make this choice.
My mom was a two-time Olympic champion and when I start to play hockey I dream that if I have chance to play for my country I will do it every time they ask me. Ever since I was teenager I have played for Junior Russia National team whenever they ask me to. Ever since I was good enough to play on Men’s National Team, whenever they ask me I play. When they ask me to be part of Olympics Closing Ceremony in Vancouver before Sochi get the Olympic Games I said ok let’s do it. When they ask me to be Ambassador for Sochi Olympic Games I did it. When they ask me to go to Greece and be first Russian to carry Olympic flame on way to Sochi I do it. When they ask me to play in World Cup I do it. I am proud that we win on Junior team and for the National team in World Championships but we do not win the most important thing yet. Olympic Gold Medal.
I see the news this week and I am very disappointed that IOC, IIHF and NHL put me and all NHL players in this position when some of the best players in world do not have chance to play in the Olympic Games. This is not just about me but all the NHL players who want to play and have a chance to win Gold for their country. Our countries are now not allowed to ask us to play in the Olympics. Me, my teammates and all players who want to go all lose. So do all the fans of hockey with this decision that we are not allowed to be invited. NHL players in the Olympics is good for hockey and good for Olympics. It sucks that will we not be there to play!!
I said every time I was asked since last Olympics that nobody is going to tell me I can’t play because my country was going to be allowed to ask me. Now the IIHF and NHL say my country is not allowed to ask anybody in the NHL to play and there is nothing to talk about anymore. I talk to Ted about this last year and he support me and have my back and understand what I want to do if I was allowed to be asked to go. Me and my family thank him for his support.
There is nothing like Olympic Games. It is still my dream to win an Olympic Gold medal for my country. I hope things will change and all of us will have a chance to go again in 2022. What’s most important to remember is kids have lots of dreams. My focus as it always is this time of year is on my other dream as a kid, to try to win the Stanley Cup. I am excited training camp has started in Washington and the time for talking is done. We just have to go out and do it and I will try my hardest to help my teammates win like I do every year since I came to the NHL.”
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