9:20am: The KHL has actually retracted their previous statement about allowing players to go, now saying that “participation is not resolved.” We’ll continue to update when the next statement is made by the KHL Board of Governors.
8:20am: When the IOC announced that Russia would be banned from the upcoming 2018 Olympic Games, it wasn’t clear where that left the KHL. The league had previously warned that should Russia be left out of the Games, the entire league may avoid a shutdown and not let players from any country attend. That would have been devastating for Hockey Canada and USA Hockey, relying on professionals playing in the KHL to make up a good chunk of their teams.
For Team Russia themselves, they were given an option to play under a neutral flag as “OAR” or “Olympic Athletes from Russia” but it wasn’t clear if the country would want to pursue that opportunity. After Russian President Vladimir Putin announced he would support athletes competing under the Olympic flag, many KHL players including Ilya Kovalchuk and Pavel Datsyuk spoke to the KHL to try and secure a guarantee that they could go. They’ve done just that according to Gabrielle Tetrault-Farber of Reuters, who reports that the KHL Board of Directors “wished luck to all KHL players” that were headed to Pyeongchang.
It’s not clear how exactly the OAR team will work, but it will likely compete in a similar fashion to the Unified Team in 1992. That year, countries that made up the former Soviet Union iced a team that took home gold in men’s hockey, playing under an Olympic flag. We could see the same thing happen once again, as players like Kovalchuk and Datsyuk take on the relatively weak rosters of the rest of the world.