Alex Ovechkin was Alex Ovechkin on a conference call Wednesday with a reporter each from The Washington Times and The Washington Post. This was NHL Players’ Association Alex, who stuck to the message and made one thing clear:
Nothing’s going to stand in the way of him playing.
“Everybody wants to play hockey. It’s not enough to stop the NHL,” Ovechkin said. “The league stopped the NHL, the [commissioner Gary] Bettman and the owners stop the NHL. They don’t play hockey, they don’t block the shots, they don’t fight, they don’t get hit. They just sit in a box and enjoy the hockey.”
So Ovechkin will enjoy his hockey for Dynamo Moscow in the Kontinental Hockey League after signing a one-year deal there this week. On this conference call he reiterated that the NHL stands to lose players to Europe permanently if the league cuts salaries, something the Washington Capitals captain said in Russian he’d consider.
Here are some thoughts on that and other assorted bits and pieces:
* I asked Ovechkin about the ramifications of staying in Europe, such as the possibility of not being allowed to compete in the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia. This was his response, in full, to that question:
“Yeah, I talked to a couple guys, I’m not gonna say the names, but they’re playing in Russia right now, they’re all Russian guys who I talked [to]. And they said of course we’re gonna think what’s gonna happen the CBA is gonna be what NHL said. I think and they think that the deal what NHLPA take to the league worked for both sides and especially for NHL. They make the most money and they keep it. Right now they want to blow up everything what they did to announce the lockout, you know.”
Ovechkin and other players understand there are consequences if they don’t return to the NHL once the lockout is over. Donald Fehr has made that perfectly clear to them.
That said, it would probably be unlikely if any of this occurred. It’s unlikely that the league slashes salaries so much that Ovechkin and other prominent players choose to remain in Europe. It’s unlikely that those decisions would hamper participation in the Olympics, given how much of a firestorm that would create.
But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. I don’t, personally, believe that Ovechkin’s comments about staying in Russia are just rhetoric or sabre-rattling. I tend to believe it is something Ovechkin has thought about, even if it’s just one idea of many.
That being said, any of these possibilities are pretty far down the road. First, the NHL and NHLPA need to work out a new CBA, and then everything else will happen.
* Meanwhile, Ovechkin will be playing for Dynamo. The only other KHL team he talked to was CSKA Moscow, thanks to his good relationship with general manager and former teammate Sergei Fedorov.
“My preference was to stay in North America,” Ovechkin said. “I came early to negotiate with NHLPA and get ready for year. After when I talked to Don [Fehr] and I talked to everybody and they said it’s probably gonna be lockout, so I just decide to come here a little bit early for one week, skate on a bigger ice and decide what my future is. I decide to sign with Dynamo. And I’m pretty happy and I’m pretty excited. It’s not a secret that our job is in NHL and right now we don’t have a job. So we just decide to come play in KHL[in] Russia.”
So, why Dynamo?
“We decide to come back to my home team and the place where I grew up. I play for the fans as well,” Ovechkin said. “It’s always nice to come back to where you were growing up and where you was a little kid. Right now lots of people are pretty happy and pretty excited that they’re gonna see me back in Dynamo and in Dynamo jersey.”
Ovechkin wore No. 32 in his first stint with Dynamo.