Alex Ovechkin's Threat to Leave NHL Can't Be Taken Seriously

Donald WoodFeatured ColumnistSeptember 19, 2012

WASHINGTON, DC - MAY 09:  Alex Ovechkin #8 of the Washington Capitals reacts after a play against the New York Rangers in Game Six of the Eastern Conference Semifinals during the 2012 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at Verizon Center on May 9, 2012 in Washington, DC.  (Photo by Patrick McDermott/Getty Images)
Patrick McDermott/Getty Images

There is no question that Washington Capitals left wing Alexander Ovechkin is one of the best players in the National Hockey League, but no one ever claimed the Russian star had much business sense.

That’s why his recent comments on the NHL lockout—and the threat that he would leave the league—can’t be taken seriously by anyone that knows the nature of the business side of the sport.

No one wants to open that Pandora's box.

Ovechkin told (via Slava Malamud and the Washington Post) about his plans for the future if the NHL and NHLPA agree to cut the salaries of the players:

As to the future, it will depend on what kind of conditions there will be in the NHL with the new CBA. If our contracts get slashed, I will have to think whether to return there or not. I won’t rule out staying in the KHL, even past this season.

While this looks like the ultimate threat to the NHL and its owners to get this lockout lifted, it is nothing but a red herring to get the fans to side with the players.

The comments will rally the troops, but they don’t hold any water.

Ovechkin’s threat isn’t feasible on the basis that he would be violating his contract with the Capitals to continue to play in the Russian-based Kontinental Hockey League.

And therein lies the problem.

Based on a report by Dmitry Chesnokov of Yahoo! Sports, the agreement between the NHL and the KHL over contracts and how the leagues are to work with each other concluded that any player would be allowed to play in the Russian league—as long as he does not breach his NHL contract. Doing so would undo all the work done to reach the deal in the first place.

Per Chesnokov's report, the KHL doesn’t want to face the sanctions from the International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF). Also, once the contract is breached, the NHL may elect to not let its players participate in the 2014 Winter Olympics, which would be a huge loss for hockey on the international stage.

As much as NHL fans should love that one of the sport’s top stars is trying to threaten his way back onto the ice for regular season hockey, the lack of realism in his statements makes them void.

Good try, though.


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