If Alex Ovechkin wants to play in the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, then he can even if the NHL doesn’t participate.
“If they don’t and Alex still wants to go to the Olympics, I’m going to be honest, I’m going to let him go,” Leonsis said, according to the Washington Post. “I just think it’s kind of a once-in-a-lifetime thing for him to have something played in Russia.
“He’s going to be a torchbearer and it’s very important to him and his family. Who am I to get in the way of him wanting to fulfill that? And I know that’s a slippery slope because if Nick [Backstrom] says then he wants to play for Sweden, we’ll have to cross that bridge when we get to it. But I think that I’m going to lean to the side of the players in that one.”
Leonsis’ statements are nothing new. In fact, he said something very similar in 2009 in a The Hockey News report. Still, with less than 13 months until the start of the games and no commitment from the NHL, it’s noteworthy that Leonsis is strongly standing behind his earlier statements.
Ovechkin told the Post that he’s “proud” to have been selected as one of the torchbearers and plans to participate in the Olympics.
The Winter Games will take place from Feb. 7-23, so if the NHL opts against playing, then Ovechkin would be absent for a key portion of the season.
Leonsis added that the 2014 Olympics was “never brought up, discussed at all during the [labor] negotiations.”
CSNWashington.com has the entire Leonsis Q&A (split into three parts) below: