NHL Players Speak Out Against League Passing On '18 Olympic Participation
The mood in NHL locker rooms yesterday after the league's decision not to participate in the '18 PyeongChang Games was full of "frustration, disappointment, resentment and even some defiance," according to Ben Shpigel of the N.Y. TIMES. Hurricanes D Justin Faulk said, "I don’t think there’s any reason we shouldn’t be going.” Capitals LW Alex Ovechkin "suggested he thought a deal could be reached." He said, “I’m pretty sure everything is going to be fine. Next year’s schedule is not out there yet.” Canucks C Henrik Sedin: "Knowing that the league wants to get into the Asian markets, it maybe would have been smart to go over there and show the best players." Oilers C Connor McDavid: "All these young guys that are trying to make their mark on hockey, and they may not be able to get their chance to on the international stage. That part of it is a little bit upsetting" (N.Y. TIMES, 4/5). Canucks D Luca Sbisa said, "It’s just a dumb play by the league." Canucks G Ryan Miller: "It’s pretty in line with the way [NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman] conducts business. Part of me hopes that’s (what this is). The Olympics have been important for the game. Fans certainly respond to it. People identify with it. I think it’s a mistake to ignore the impact it can have on the sport" (VANCOUVER SUN, 4/5). Oilers D Adam Larsson said, "It’s a sad day for the players, and a sad day for the fans in Europe. But it’s up to the big guys. At the end of the day, the players don’t have much say" (EDMONTON JOURNAL, 4/5).
FROM THE NATION'S CAPITAL...: Capitals Owner Ted Leonsis yesterday said that he has not thought about what he will do if one of his players wants to play in South Korea. Previously, Leonsis has gone on record saying that he would support his team’s superstar, LW Alex Ovechkin, if he decides to play for the Russian team on his own. While Leonsis did not walk back those comments, he said he is more focused on the team’s coming playoff run. The Caps have the best record in hockey and are in line to enter the playoffs as the top seed in the East. Leonsis said, “What the league now does with the IOC, I will wait to see what happens. But I’m not going to spend five seconds thinking about what happened yesterday when the playoffs are a week away” (John Ourand, Staff Writer). In DC, Isabelle Khurshudyan wonders if Ovechkin "intends to miss regular-season games" to play for Team Russia, "will other Capitals do the same?" Capitals G Braden Holtby: "I have no idea if guys will or not, that’s a personal decision, (but) I wouldn’t be able to go away from my team here. I couldn’t do it. That’s just personal. But everyone’s priorities are kind of different" (WASHINGTON POST, 4/5). Ovechkin yesterday said that he "still intends to play" in the Games. He said, "Somebody (is) going to tell me 'don't go,' I don't care, I just go" (ESPN.com, 4/4). SI.com's Joshua Kloke noted when he asked Capitals C Evgeny Kuznetsov about participating, he "placed his right hand on his heart" as he answered. Kuznetsov, "like so many other prominent NHL players, believes strongly in representing his country on the world's biggest stage." Monday's announcement and yesterday's backlash "showcase how much this decision means" to players (SI.com, 4/4). Kuznetsov said, "If Russia needs us, of course" (WASHINGTON POST, 4/5).
CAUGHT OFF GUARD: Flames RW Michael Frolik said the decision not to go was a "little bit of a surprise." Frolik: "I thought they were going to make a deal" (CALGARY HERALD, 4/5). Jets RW Blake Wheeler called it a "real good opportunity wasted" (WINNIPEG FREE PRESS, 4/5). Bruins C David Krejci said, "100 percent disappointed. But at the same time, I understand why they made the decision and nothing you can do about it." Bruins LW Brad Marchand said NHL owners are the "best businessmen in the world, and they know that they’re not going to give up anything for free.” Marchand: “They’re going to want something in return, and that’s the way it’s looking right now" (BOSTON HERALD, 4/5). Red Wings C Dylan Larkin said, "It's my first chance at making the Olympic team. It's pretty disappointing." ESPN.com's Craig Custance noted there have been "threats that if the NHL skips" the '18 Games it "won't be allowed to return" for the '22 Beijing Games. If that "holds true, it means an entire generation of great, young American hockey players will never get a chance to represent their country while playing in their prime" (ESPN.com, 4/4).
ANYTHING STILL TO COME? In Boston, Fluto Shinzawa notes while the NHL was "insistent on its decision, Marchand believes the Olympic door may not be closed." Marchand: "I don’t think last time they even announced that we were going to go until close to August" (BOSTON GLOBE, 4/5). Blackhawks C Jonathan Toews said, "I guess you have to respect your employers, your owner's decision. But ... it just seems unfortunate that when the players voice it's something they think is beneficial not only for them, but for the league and for our game as a whole -- it automatically turns into a negotiation. It just seems like it comes down to what can they get out of us when the next CBA negotiation rolls around. It's not about the long-term goals of our game and growing it and the bigger picture." He added, "I disagree with the short-sightedness of this whole thing, too. Unfortunately, it doesn't seem that players can get that cooperation from the league" (CHICAGO TRIBUNE, 4/5). Capitals D Kevin Shattenkirk said, "It really seemed like kind of a knee-jerk decision by the NHL. ... Now it just seems like they want to use it as a bargaining chip. That's wrong. That's not what the Olympics is for" (ESPN.com, 4/4).
MISSED OPPORTUNITY? Blues LW Alexander Steen said, "This was a big chance to get into other markets that, especially in recent years, have been grasping at hockey and hoping to get more involved in it. Asia has a couple KHL teams now and it was a good opportunity for us to have a big tournament over there.” Blues D Jay Bouwmeester said, "We’ve seen them do a lot of things like this, whether it be lockouts, where it’s just a little bit of disregard for people’s feelings. They just do what they think is best for their business" (ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH, 4/5). Stars coach Lindy Ruff, who was part of Gold Medal-winning teams for Canada in past Olympic Games, said, "It's a disappointment for me, being involved in two of them. ... It is something that is going to be missed" (DALLAS MORNING NEWS, 4/5). But Kings coach Darryl Sutter said he does not see the NHL's announcement as the "final resolution" to Olympic participation (L.A. TIMES, 4/5).