Last week, ESPN.com published a survey of 193 current NHL players. One of the questions: Should the NHL participate in the Winter Olympics beyond the 2010 Games in Vancouver? The answer was a resounding yes, with 82% of those surveyed answering in the affirmative.
But while that poll was anonymous, you can put a face on at least one player who has his mind on hitting the ice in Sochi, Russia in time for the 2014 Winter Games: Washington Capitals winger Alex Ovechkin.
In an interview that will be published tomorrow in Sovetsky Sport, Ovechkin told the newspaper's Pavel Lysenkov that participating in the games is a "matter of prestige" for him and his fellow Russian NHL players. The translation of the piece comes after the jump. Thanks once again to our friend Dmitry Chesnokov, Sovetsky's Washington correspondent, for supplying the translation.
Pavel Lysenkov (PL): Alex, which one of the world of hockey trophies are you missing the most? And which one of the ones you have won is the most treasured?
Alex Ovechkin (AO): All of my awards are valuable because they were earned with hard work. But the first place I would give to the gold medal from the World Championships in Quebec. What's missing ... I have yet to win the Olympics and the Stanley Cup. It is difficult to compare the two tournaments. You represent your own country at the Winter Games. The Olympic Games take place only once every four years. And it's not winning, but even attending the Games is a difficult [achievement]. The Stanley Cup - you play 82 games in the regular season. You work as a horse to make the playoffs and work even more once you get there. Completely different priorities. But my goal is to win both of those trophies.
PL: Can you imagine the NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman not letting you go to the Sochi Olympics in 2014?
AO: The Games will be held in my homeland. I don't even want to hear the talks of someone not letting me go to the Olympics. If I don't make it to Sochi it will be a tragedy for me.
PL: What's the way out? Are you going to approach the Capitals owner Ted Leonsis and ask for an unpaid month off?
AO: You have to understand that the Sochi Olympics is the question of prestige. It's the matter of [my] entire life. How can I be forbidden from playing for my country, especially at home? If they want to create an obstacle they why [should] we, Russian NHL players ... participate in the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver? It seems that we are raising the ratings of a tournament that will take place in Canada. And they don't want to let us go to Russia.
PL: What to do?
AO: The decision whether NHL players will participate in [future] Olympics will be taken in 2012, when the league and the NHLPA sign a new CBA. If we are prevented... I won't understand it. This shouldn't happen. It is not nice. It is wrong.
Ovechkin: NHL Participation in the Olympics Must Continue originally appeared on NHL FanHouse on Thu, 12 Feb 2009 17:25:00 EST . Please see our terms for use of feeds.