While most Olympic talk is focused on the Vancouver games coming up in February, Tatyana Ovechkin is more concerned over the Sochi games five years from now and the ongoing dispute as to if NHL players will be allowed to participate or not. She recently sat down with a Capitals’ reporter and had some choice words for Gary Bettman:
“How can [Commissioner Gary] Bettman not let them play?” fumed Ovechkin’s mother, Tatyana, in a recent conversation with me. “Doesn’t he understand what Olympics are? Let him read books! Let him study history! They stopped wars in ancient Greece for the Olympics. Wars! And he can’t stop his league for two weeks? This is nonsense!”
Oh if only it were that easy Ms. Ovechkin. Bettman is just a small facet concerning players being allowed to play in 2014. Once the new CBA comes about in a few years, NHL participation in the Olympic games will be one of the topics voted on among the owners.
Tatyana, a two-time Olympian in her own right, does make a valid argument. Players dream of playing in the Stanley Cup, but the Olympics are just as big or bigger for non-North American players.
But at what cost would allowing NHL players to participate in the Olympics cost the NHL? Awkward scheduling is a given, but injuries are the bigger concern. Any injury in the upcoming Olympics will be used against the case for NHL-player participation. Even if owners voted against allowing players to participate, Evgeni Malkin said in an interview during the All-Star game that he would join Ovechkin and Ilya Kovalchuk in Sochi no matter what the decision is.
So now what happens if NHLers are not allowed to play in the Olympics? Well from what it sounds like, that certainly will not stop some of the most prominent Russians in the league from playing. Suspensions and fines are looming for those who ditch the NHL in favor of the Olympics.
Capitals’ owner Ted Leonsis also gave his point of view:
“It’s a players’ league, you know, and the players want to do it. And they should have a strong voice. We will support them, but if I were a player, I would be asking, ‘Where is all that money going?’ Somebody is getting paid billions and billions of dollars and the players aren’t, the league is not. …”
Well as one of the comments pointed out, “Not everything is about money, Teddy”. In this case, I would side with the players. Looking at monetary reasons only, nationalism and taking pride in representing your country should always be more important than dollar bills.
I for one am anxious for Vancouver and cannot wait to see how this dispute transpires. No matter what the final decision is, it will spark heated debates and either the players or the NHL will not be happy campers.