It appears as though Alexander Ovechkin will have some company if he decides to play in the 2014 Olympic Games in Sochi, Russia against the wishes of the NHL.
In an interview with Yahoo.com's 'Puck Daddy' hockey blog, Pittsburgh Penguins superstar Evgeny Malkin appears intent on participating in the Games in his homeland.
"I completely agree with Alex," Malkin told Puck Daddy. "I have exactly the same opinion. We even spoke to each other about it on one occasion. That's why I agree. 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."
While the NHL has not completely closed the door, the league has no commitment to take part in the Olympics past the upcoming Winter Games in Vancouver in February. While the NHLPA has stated that they fully support continued participation, NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman has intimated that the Vancouver Games may well be the final time the NHL sends athletes. Bettman plans to sit down with the Players' Association following the Vancouver games to discuss the advantages and disadvantages of continued participation.
Much like Ovechkin before him, Malkin has defiantly stated that he is willing to take the wrath of the league to participate.
"I would rather pay fines and still go," Malkin told Puck Daddy. "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. It is very difficult to say right now. But I can give you 100% that I will go."
Malkin does not see the issue being one of simply his Russian heritage, as he believes that representing one's country at the highest level with the world watching, is the greatest incentive.
"I don't know of any American or Canadian player who doesn't want to play in the Olympics," stated Malkin. "I spoke with many of them, including Sid (Crosby) and other guys, and they all understand that this tournament takes place once every four years. And it is one of the most important events in the world of hockey. That's why players are eager to go. Those who don't want to go are those who only want to make money and don't love hockey. I don't know any player who doesn't want to participate in World Championships or the Olympics."