NHL players in Olympics sparks difference of opinion
“It only happens once in four years, especially like if I have opportunity to represent my country, my hometown at home, of course it’s pretty big,” Ovechkin said. “I think for all European guys, it’s very important to be there. This event is unbelievable.”
Caps center Nicklas Backstrom, who played for Sweden in the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver, isn’t going that far. He’s waiting to see what happens.
“If everybody goes, everybody goes,” Backstrom said. “If they say no, I mean, it’s for everybody, I guess. It’s got to be the same for everybody, I think. Either everybody goes or no one goes.”
That’s what the league, NHL Players’ Association, International Ice Hockey Federation and International Olympic Committee are meeting about. NBC signing on to televise the Sochi Games makes NHL participation just about a foregone conclusion, even after IIHF president Rene Fasel told the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation that one roadblock is “ego from some people in North America.”
NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly said he had no level of expectation for the meetings or any timeline to come to an agreement.
“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,” Daly wrote 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.”
The NHL would love more say in how the tournament works if it is taking an extended break from the 2013-14 season and letting its most valuable assets play in the Olympics. There are other issues that will need to be ironed out, but those shouldn’t stand in the way of NHL players going to Sochi.
“I think you should be able to, no question. I don’t think anyone should be able to take that right away from you,” Stamkos said. “Representing your country, it’s kind of above everything else, as well. I personally think guys will be able to go over there and represent their countries and play. I know some guys would probably go over there anyways, even if they couldn’t. I really don’t think it’ll be an issue heading forward.”
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