Cap­i­tals’ Ovechkin says Olympic de­ci­sion out of his hands

Kuwait Times - - SPORTS -

Alex Ovechkin re­leased a state­ment through the Wash­ing­ton Cap­i­tals ac­knowl­edg­ing that the abil­ity to rep­re­sent Rus­sia in the 2018 Olympics has been taken out of his hands. On the eve of the first day of on­ice train­ing camp work­outs, Ovechkin said in the state­ment that while he loves play­ing for his coun­try, it won’t hap­pen be­cause the In­ter­na­tional Ice Hockey Fed­er­a­tion has as­sured the NHL that play­ers un­der con­tract won’t be able to play in South Korea. The NHL an­nounced in April it wouldn’t be send­ing play­ers to the Games for the first time since 1994.

“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.”

The Ath­letic first re­ported the IIHF’s as­sur­ances to the league last week. Ovechkin is set to ad­dress re­porters af­ter his first of­fi­cial camp prac­tice Friday. Ovechkin be­gan say­ing a year ago that he was go­ing to the Olympics no mat­ter what. NHL play­ers had par­tic­i­pated in the past five Olympics, and Ovechkin played for Rus­sia in the past three. Rus­sia has a long his­tory of us­ing its top play­ers in the Olympics, well be­fore the NHL be­gan par­tic­i­pat­ing in Nagano in 1998. The Soviet Union, and then the Uni­fied Team, won eight of 10 Olympic gold medals from 1956-1992.

“I wanted to make this state­ment so that my words are clear and no­body mis­un­der­stands what I am say­ing,” Ovechkin said. “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.”

In the state­ment, Ovechkin thanked owner Ted Leon­sis for his sup­port. Leon­sis had gone on record say­ing he’d al­low Ovechkin and other top play­ers to go to the Olympics if they wanted to, even if it meant miss­ing Cap­i­tals games.

That won’t hap­pen now. “Our coun­tries are now not al­lowed to ask us to play in the Olympics,” the six-time NHL goals leader said. “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, who turns 32 next week, had 33 goals and 36 as­sists in 82 reg­u­lar-sea­son games last sea­son and added five goals and three as­sists in 13 play­off games. In 12 NHL sea­sons, all with the Cap­i­tals, he has 558 goals and 477 goals in 921 reg­u­lar-sea­son games and 46 goals and 44 as­sists in 97 play­off games.

“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,” Ovechkin wrote. “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.” — AP

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