The National Hockey League's announcement that its players won't be taking part at the 2018 Winter Olympics has not fazed Alex Ovechkin one bit.
The Washington Capitals sniper, who has represented Russia numerous times in international competition, says he still intends to go to Pyeongchang, Sourth Korea next year to take part in the men's hockey tournament.
"Yeah, I didn't change my mind," he told a scrum of reporters in Toronto on Tuesday, adding that he thinks the league is bluffing. "I'm still going no matter what. "Because it's my country, I think everybody wants to play in the Olympic Games. So, I don’t know, somebody (is) going to tell me they 'don't go,' I don’t care, I just go."
The league announced Monday it will not participate in the Pyeongchang Games, refusing for the first time in 20 years to halt its season for three weeks.
While the IIHF had agreed to pay for players' travel and insurance costs when the IOC refused, the NHL had been looking for more concessions that were believed to be tied to marketing opportunities tied to the Games. The NHLPA responded to the league's announcement by saying players are "extraordinarily disappointed and adamantly disagree with the NHL's shortsighted decision."
Ovechkin said Tuesday he won't believe the decision is final until the 2017-18 schedule is released by the league.
"Yeah, I hope so," Ovechkin said when asked if there was still time for a deal. "Again, right now, it’s still time to make a decision, you can say whatever, but next year’s schedule is not out yet. So if the schedule is not going to the Olympic Games, then you can see they don’t bluff. But again, still long time, still everything can change. But in my mind, like I said already, I’m going, it doesn’t matter what.''
Many players, including Ovechkin, have already expressed a strong desire to compete. The NHL has not decided whether to allow teams to make decisions on a case-by-case basis about players participating in the 2018 Olympics.
"Our owner (Ted Leonsis) understands," Ovechkin added. "Everybody wants to be there."
Ovechkin's sentiment wasn't lost on teammate and fellow countryman Evgeny Kuznetsov, who also expressed his desire to go. "It's in the heart," he told reporters.