Oates doesn’t think NHLers belong in Olympics

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Capitals head coach Adam Oates doesn’t think NHL players belong in the Olympics.

“You know what, I don’t. I don’t. My honest answer is no,” Oates said Wednesday, per the Washington Post. “Is it good for hockey that they do it? Great. But I grew up trying to play for the Toronto Maple Leafs, not Team Canada. Didn’t even know it existed.”

Oates’ opinion places him in the minority among players, fans and media. And his comments are a bit of a head-scratcher given his captain, Alex Ovechkin, can’t wait to suit up for Russia in Sochi next year.

Oates did admit that it was different for European players — “they grew up trying to play for their country, so it’s a different animal.”

But while playing internationally may not have been a major aspiration for North American kids when Oates, 50, was growing up, surely things have changed now with professionals participating in the Olympics and the growth of tournaments like the World Juniors.

For example, here’s Leafs prospect Morgan Rielly when he found out he made Canada’s World Juniors squad:

“As a kid growing up in Canada, you’re always watching the tournament around Christmastime and when you see that you’re going to get the opportunity to play for Team Canada it’s a great feeling. It’s just a dream come true.”

Oates, by the way, never represented Canada internationally; he reportedly declined invitations to focus on his pro career.

Related: How do Team USA, Canada, Russia look a year before the Olympics?