To play or not to play...that is the question at hand regarding the participation of NHLers.
In particular and in this case, we will be talking about Alexander Ovechkin, who has up to this point been the most outspoken player concerning being a part of the 2014 Winter Olympics at Sochi, in the country of his birth, Russia.
Ovechkin, who is regarded as the best player in the world by many, and one of the purest goal scorers in recent history [and perhaps all-time...only time will tell...], has said that he is prepared to leave the NHL if he is prohibited from participating in the Olympics in his country of origin.
As of this moment, there has been no decision as to whether NHL players will be permitted to participate by the league.
It has been suggested that if 2014 were in Vancouver, that there would be no question as to whether the NHL would give permission to it's players to play.
But that is for another day.
Here is an excerpt from an interview with Ovechkin, taken from russiatoday.com.
[RT= russiatoday.com-A.O.=Alex Ovechkin]
RT: 'Unfortunately we don’t know whether the NHL players will be allowed to play in Sochi. How are you going to feel if you are not allowed to play in Sochi?'
A.O.: 'I will be there.'
RT: 'Even if that means you leaving the NHL?'
RT: 'So if push came to shove, you would leave the NHL to play in Sochi?'
A.O.: 'Yes. Can you imagine the NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman not letting you go to the Sochi Olympics in 2014?'
'The Games will be held in my homeland. I don't even want to hear the talks of someone not letting me go to the Olympics. If I don't make it to Sochi, it will be a tragedy for me.'
"I don't care," Ovechkin defiantly stated. "I'll go play in the Olympic Games for my country. If somebody says to me you can't play, see ya."
Even if it meant the Washington Capitals would suspend him?
"I don't care," he said.
No matter if you are a fan of Alexander Ovechkin or not, this presents the possibility if a very intriguing scenario. It makes me think that AO knows his value to the league, and is willing to test its buoyancy and his worth.
And Ovie isn't the only one. Evgeni Malkin has also stated that he, too, will be there.
Very interesting indeed.
Ilya Kovalchuk was on record last season that he, too, would go if invited.
Russians in the NHL represent some of the very best players in the league. AO. Malkin. Kovalchuk. Datsyuk. Nabokov. Bryzgalov.
They are assets that are used to try and increase marketability and fan base. And rightfully so. Russians also represent some of the most skilled and exciting players in the league.
So, do you deny this generation of Russian superstars the opportunity to proudly represent their homeland? The Winter Olympic Games happen once every four years.
They were Russians before they were NHLers, and their bosses will still be rich in 2014, even if they let their players participate at Sochi.
It's an easy decision, in my opinion, but to me Bettman is trying to make a statement. That statement is: 'I'm the boss.' If I were Bettman, I wouldn't want this fight.
In every other sport in the Olympics, each country is represented by the very best it has to offer for that sport. Why should hockey players be the exception?
On another interesting note, it has been reported that Ovechkin's mother is irate at the notion of the NHL's possible no-participation.
Tatyana Ovechkin was quoted as saying, 'How can [Commissioner Gary] Bettman not let them play?” fumed Ovechkin’s mother, Tatyana, in a recent conversation with me. “Doesn’t he understand what Olympics are? Let him read books! Let him study history! They stopped wars in ancient Greece for the Olympics. Wars! And he can’t stop his league for two weeks? This is nonsense!'
I guess injuries would be the biggest concern. And scheduling. Why not drop the overseas exhibition games, and cut the preseason down to 3-4 games, and play 2 home-and-home games against inter-division rivals.
Then start the regular season. This would give the NHL the room to accommodate the Olympics...that is, if they truly wanted to.
Ovechkin was also quoted as saying: 'Nobody can tell me you can't play for your country," Ovechkin said earlier this month. "I don't care, it's my decision and I want to represent my country at the Olympic Games.'
Malkin said: 'This is my dream. Especially because this is going to take place in Russia. There is a buzz over there already. And if I am in good form, if I am a candidate for a roster spot, and if I am invited, there is no way I will refuse.'
Malkin added he would be prepared to forgo his NHL career if it meant playing for Russia at the Olympics.
They have a point. A man's gotta do what a man's gotta do.
When you gotta go, you gotta go...
You get my point. And who can blame Alexander Ovechkin and Evgeni Malkin for getting excited about the 2014 Games in Russia? Playing in the Olympics is a dream. Not being allowed to would be a nightmare.
This one's obviously not about the money. It's for the love of the game. It's about playing the greatest sport on earth. Period.