Alex Kovalev isn’t surprised by Ilya Kovalchuk’s decision

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Alex Kovalev didn’t exactly volunteer to end his NHL career and move on to play in Europe, but he told the Montreal Gazette that he isn’t surprised that Ilya Kovalchuk made such a choice.

“Hockey in Russia has become much better,” Kovalev said. “There are a lot of European players who go and play there, and the KHL wants to bring good hockey back. They’ll do whatever it takes.”

“They’ll try to bring a lot of NHL players to the KHL. There are a lot of factors that can attract them: money, the game, a lot of new arenas, everything’s going in the right direction. And for Russian players, they can make more money at home and not pay the high taxes they do in North America.”

Kovalev still holds some hard feelings about the way things ended with the Florida Panthers and also didn’t seem to happy with the direction the Russian Olympic team seems to be headed in 2014.

While he spoke of being more motivated than ever to hit the gym (and shoot for a stated goal of playing hockey until he’s 50), the 40-year-old seems a little jaded about the sport.

“It feels that people don’t care about the hockey anymore,” Kovalev said about the way things ended with Florida. “It’s just a business — trying to save money and free up cap space for young guys.”

Perhaps that’s why he barely shrugs his shoulder at a decision that shocked so much of the hockey world.