Olympics

Malkin, Ovechkin will risk sanctions to play in 2014 Games

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TSN
9/23/2009 10:15:53 AM
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The Vancouver 2010 Olympics have not even arrived but who can blame Alexander Ovechkin and Evgeni Malkin for looking ahead to 2014 Games in Russia.

Both players have said they would risk sanctions in order to leave their NHL teams to play in the Olympics in their home country.

"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 represnt my country at the Olympic Games."

Malkin recently told Yahoo.com's "Puck Daddy" blog that he agrees completely with Ovechkin's stance.

"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," the Penguins star was quoted as saying.

Malkin added he would be prepared to forgo his NHL career if it meant playing for Russia at the Olympics.

"I would rather pay fines and still go. If there is something serious like a disqualification for a couple of years in the NHL, if there is something like this I will probably still go because I can even leave to Russia to play."

Ron Wilson, who will coach the 2010 U.S. men's hockey team, says he understands why players like Ovechkin and Malkin are taking such a hard stance.

"When their career is over they're going to go back and live in Russia, I assume, and they don't ever want to appear to having taken and never giving something back," Wilson tells TSN. "That would be from their point of view the ultimate giving back. I fully understand their sentiments."

But what about players from other countries? Would they follow their lead?

"If it's my choice, of course I would play," said Daniel Alfredsson who won gold with Sweden in 2006 in Turin. "I don't know if I would go as far as saying I would play regardless but I think there's a lot of factors that come into it. The NHL pays our salaries, they're a big part of it."

"Obviously for every hockey player the Olympics is a dream, especially if it's held in your country."

"I don't know," said Jason Blake, a member of the 2006 U.S. Olympic team. "Obviously that's their decision at the end of the day. Obviously I got to go and I enjoyed it but at the end of the day, it's the NHL's decision."

The 2010 Olympics have stirred up much national pride. Wilson believes a few Canadian players in the NHL would opt to leave their team and play for their country in Vancouver if the NHL were not part of the Games.

"If the NHL said,'this year no NHL player involvement', then there would have been a few NHL players who would decide to play in the Olympics."

While Ovechkin and Malkin have put this topic front and centre, NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly is not in a hurry to rush to a decision, saying "we think its far to premature to speculate on a situation that may happen four years into the future. A hypothetical we may or may not have to deal with. Why cross that bridge now".

 

Evgeni Malkin (Photo: The Canadian Press)

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(Photo: The Canadian Press)
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