Alex Ovechkin has given up on his Olympic dream for 2018.
The Washington Capitals winger released a lengthy statement through the team on Thursday night, saying he will not compete for Team Russia in the 2018 Games.
“I said every time I was asked since last Olympics that nobody is going to tell me I can’t play because my country was going to be allowed to ask me,” Ovechkin wrote. “Now the IIHF and NHL say my country is not allowed to ask anybody in the NHL to play and there is nothing to talk about anymore.”
“NHL players in the Olympics is good for hockey and good for Olympics,” Alex Ovechkin wrote in his statement Thursday. “It sucks that will we not be there to play!!”
NHL players have competed in the past five Winter Olympics, dating to 1998. However, the league decided not to break for the 2018 Games in Pyeongchang, South Korea, an unpopular decision among players. The International Ice Hockey Federation recently assured the NHL that players under contract with the league won’t be able to play in South Korea.
“NHL players in the Olympics is good for hockey and good for Olympics,” Ovechkin wrote. “It sucks that will we not be there to play!!”
Ovechkin, who turns 32 next week, played for Russia in the past three Olympics. Russia has a long history of using its top players in the Olympics, well before the NHL began participating in Nagano in 1998. The Soviet Union, and then the Unified Team, won eight of 10 Olympic gold medals from 1956 to 1992.
In the statement, Ovechkin thanked Capitals owner Ted Leonsis for his support. Leonsis had gone on record saying he would allow Ovechkin and other top players to go to the Olympics if they wanted to, even if it meant missing Capitals games.
Ovechkin is set to address reporters after his first official training camp practice Friday, but in Thursday night’s statement, he said his goal this season remains the same: to win his first Stanley Cup. He also said he remains hopeful he can finish his career with a gold-medal win for his country.
“I hope things will change and all of us will have a chance to go again in 2022,” he wrote. “What’s most important to remember is kids have lots of dreams.”