Alex Ovechkin went against the NHLPA grain by openly saying he will play in the 2018 Olympics in South Korea. Whether the NHL actually sends players is still debatable, making his statements a bit more surprising.
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On one hand you have Alex Ovechkin as the voice of players whom want to play for their country. While the NHL allows players like Alex Ovechkin to make a great living in the most visible league in the world, putting on colors for your country once every four years is a tremendous honor.
On the other hand you have the NHL focused on the revenues. With all due respect to South Korea, games aren’t likely to air live in North America which matters a great deal to the NHL. If their best players are going to risk injury at a time when the league is shut down, the league expects to be compensated.
It’s a reasonable request by Alex Ovechkin and the players to represent their country but they are under contract in the NHL. I’m sure Alex Ovechkin has already been contacted by the league. At the very least he likely heard from the human lockout machine, Donald Fehr, the Executive Director of the NHLPA.
I understand that money makes opportunity and vice versa. I’m not naïve enough to think the NHL will agree to Alex Ovechkin and other star players going to South Korea without something big in return. No team wants their players getting hurt in the Olympics. But would the league really dig their heels in on this? Are there enough players like Alex Ovechkin where this could become a lockout issue in the next CBA?
That’s getting a little ahead of it now. But I’m siding with Alex Ovechkin and the players. There is something about the Olympic experience that feels more pure as a fan. Many Olympic athletes don’t make the money NHL or NBA players due at the Games. They are doing it for their country and that gold medal, proving they are the best in the world.
Alex Ovechkin doesn’t have a gold medal yet. In fact he doesn’t have any Olympic medals. That’s a matter of pride for a great player like Alex Ovechkin. The Olympics are just different for me. I believe the Stanley Cup is the most special trophy in all of North American sports. But it’s handed out every year barring rich men fighting over money. A gold medal is once every four years. It’s harder to get. The opportunities are fewer. And it’s about national pride.
I completely agree with the sentiment that NHL players should play in the Olympics should they choose to. That’s more a legal negotiation which likely won’t get decided until the last-minute. The league has a reputation for waiting on such things and occasionally still failing to compromise. It will likely happen again with Fehr involved. But I hold out hope that Alex Ovechkin and other NHL players whom wish to play for their country get the chance to do it.
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