The Washington Times - February 14, 2013, 09:04AM

TAMPA, Fla. | Adam Oates understands the value of NHL players going to the Olympics and what it can do for the growth of the sport, but that doesn’t mean the Washington Capitals coach thinks they should be there.

You know what, I don’t. I don’t. My honest answer is no,” Oates said. “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.”

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Oates chose not to represent Team Canada during his playing career because that wasn’t his priority. But he doesn’t begrudge guys, especially Europeans, who consider international play important. Caps captain Alex Ovechkin has made it clear he’s going to represent Russia in the 2014 Olympics in Sochi, no matter what the NHL decides.

It’s different for the European guys because they grew up trying to play for their country, so it’s a different animal,” Oates said Wednesday afternoon in an interview with The Washington Times, The Washington Post and Caps team website. “And I think that’s where they’re trying to balance it, too, and create more fans, etc.”

The league, NHL Players’ Association, International Ice Hockey Federation and International Olympic Committee are set to meet Thursday and Friday about the possibility of NHL players going to Sochi.

Obviously, the reason we are meeting is to see if we can reach a common understanding on the conditions pursuant to which the NHL and our Players can fully participate in the 2014 Sochi Games,” NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly said in an email. “The topics we will be discussing are the same basic issues we have raised and discussed with the IOC and IIHF previously, and this is just a continuation of that discussion. I have no level of expectation one way or the other and no specific timeline has been established.”

As a coach, the two-week Olympic break doesn’t bother Oates, “That’s the same for everybody.” Injuries, though, are a concern.

“How do you feel if one of your players goes over and gets hurt?” Oates said. “It’s more devastating if one of your key players gets hurt.”

Asked about Oates’ comments, Ovechkin said he respected that opinion.

“I think every person have own mind of course and for his position, if we go there, and we probably will go there, he don’t want [us] to get hurt or something like that,” Ovechkin said. “But it’s a coach’s [perspective], it’s always like this.”

The NHL began allowing players to participate in the Olympic hockey tournament at the 1998 Games in Nagano, Japan.