Washington Capitals owner Ted Leonsis is standing by his star player, pledging his support for Alex Ovechkin and his commitment to playing in the 2018 Winter Olympics, regardless of whether the NHL plans to participate. Ovechkin has officially stated that he plans to suit up for Russia in the next Olympics, with or without his NHL peers playing alongside him. In an interview with Sports Illustrated’s Alex Prewitt, Leonsis said that he hopes the NHL and IOC can come to an agreement on the 2018 Games in Pyeongchang, South Korea, but if they can’t, he is okay with Ovechkin or any of his players choosing to participate:
“The Olympics are incredibly meaningful to Alex and his family. So my commitment to them was, I will always do what’s in Alex’s best interest, and I said it 10 years ago, I’ll say it today: If Alex Ovechkin says this is really important to me to go represent and play for my country, I’m going to support him. What’s the worst that could happen? We’ll get fined or something. I hope it doesn’t get to that. But I’ve got to have my captain’s back, and I will.”
The IOC has given the league until January to make a decision on their participation, and with the pressure or high profile players and now an owner in Washington fighting for inclusion, the NHL may have to bite the bullet and commit to the 2018 Games. With Beijing, China and potentially Calgary or Salt Lake City after that as the two Winter Olympics following Pyeongchang, continued NHL participation seems likely, but skipping South Korea continues to be an option for the NHL. However, if many players plan to go regardless in 2018, the league may as well stay the course as Olympic participants.
Other news around the league:
- The Las Vegas expansion franchise is set to finally reveal it’s name to the world on November 11th, according to NHL.com’s Nick Cotsonika. Owner Bill Foley shared that the name has indeed been chosen, as has the logo, and the team’s colors are in the final stages of becoming official as well. Everything will be made public in about a month, as Las Vegas will truly begin to transform from an idea to reality. It was previously reported that the team will likely take up either Golden Knights, Silver Knights, or Desert Knights, but with all the secretive strategy that has surrounded the process, don’t be surprised if another moniker is revealed on 11/11.
- The NHL is reviewing a high, late hit on Bruins roster-hopeful Austin Czarnik in last night’s preseason finale between Boston and Philadelphia by, who else, Radko Gudas. This is the second time already this preseason that Gudas has had a bad hit along the boards reviewed, the first being on Ranger’s rookie Jimmy Vesey. This time though, Gudas seems more likely to be punished by the league, as Czarnik took a shoulder to the face well after he had passed the puck, and was forced to leave the game because of the hit. Bruins coach Claude Julien was especially critical of the hit, saying that “this seems to be happening to (Gudas) every game”. With a strong stance by one the league’s most well-respected coaches adding fuel to the fire, expect Gudas to miss some time and miss quite a few dollars after a decision is handed down this time. The Department of Player Safety offered him an in-person hearing (which allows for a suspension of five or more games) but he declined and will have a telephone hearing on Monday (Twitter links).