Ovechkin still plans to play in the Olympics even if the NHL doesn’t participate

It was just about a year ago that Alex Ovechkin made his intentions clear about playing in the 2018 Olympics in South Korea, whether the NHL is there or not. Now that the World Cup of Hockey is about to start, Pierre LeBrun of ESPN checked back with Ovechkin to see if his thoughts had changed, or if the WCH satiated his appetite for international competition.

Nope.

We’re still a couple of years away, but with the NHL having to make a decision fairly soon about sending their pros to South Korea and stopping the season for a couple of weeks, we’re fast approaching the point where we’re going to realize that this is no longer a drill. And if Gary Bettman decides that two weeks in South Korea will do nothing to expand the fan base in North America where the games will be on in the middle of the night and says that the NHL will take their pucks and go home, then Alex Ovechkin is going to have a big decision to make. That decision? Let go of his Olympic dreams, or be in breach of contract.

[link_box id=”22277″ site_id=”17″ layout=”link-box-third” alignment=”alignright”]That’s right. An NHL standard player contract includes the following language:

The Player agrees to give his services and to play hockey in all NHL Games, All Star Games, International Hockey Games and Exhibition Games to the best of his ability under the direction and control of the Club in accordance with the provisions hereof.
Pay attention to the part that says “play hockey in all NHL Games”. Olympic hockey would not fall under the umbrella of “International Hockey Games” in the instance of the NHL not going to South Korea.
The Player and the Club recognize and agree that the Player’s participation in other sports may impair or destroy his ability and skill as a hockey Player. Accordingly the Player agrees that he will not during the period of this SPC or during any period when he is obligated under this SPC to enter into a further SPC with the Club engage or participate in football, baseball, softball, hockey, lacrosse, boxing, wrestling or other athletic sport without the written consent of the Club, which consent will not be unreasonably withheld.
So basically, Ovechkin cannot play other sports, including hockey. It couldn’t be made more plain. So if Ovechkin plays in the Olympics and breaks his leg, guess what: That’s $40 million in salary (the amount left starting in 2017-18) that the Capitals would be out from under if they so chose. Now, the Capitals could go rogue and say “you know what, this is good for the sport of hockey in general and we want to keep Ovechkin happy so we’re going to let him play in the Olympics.” But does anybody really expect the Caps to risk serious injury to their gravy train playing hockey in a uniform that doesn’t say “Capitals” on it? Not a chance.
Ovechkin needs to face facts: His participation in the Olympics could come at a huge cost to him. Four shots at a Stanley Cup and $40 million. All for a gold medal for Russia. That might be a trade he’s willing to make, and frankly it wouldn’t shock me if he makes that trade … not with the amount of players in or near their prime leaving the NHL just to play in an overseas league, never mind the Olympics. But it’s going to have to be a trade. Ovechkin can’t have both. The language is clear.
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