Alex Ovechkin hopes to see Russian hockey team at Olympics

WASHINGTON, DC - DECEMBER 06: Alex Ovechkin #8 of the Washington Capitals shoots against the Chicago Blackhawks during the second period at Capital One Arena on December 06, 2017 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
Patrick Smith/Getty Images
Alex Ovechkin of the Washington Capitals would like to see a Russian hockey team in the 2018 Olympics, even if it meant playing under a neutral flag.

ARLINGTON, Va. — Alex Ovechkin hopes the Russian hockey team participates in the 2018 Winter Olympics even though it would have to wear neutral uniforms.

After the International Olympic Committee banned Russian athletes from playing under their flag, Ovechkin said he supports the team’s decision and is ‘‘pretty sure they’re going.’’

At the Washington Capitals’ morning skate Wednesday, Ovechkin and fellow Russian Evgeny Kuznetsov say they will cheer for the Russian athletes who choose to go to South Korea.


Russian President Vladimir Putin says his government will allow Russians to compete as neutral athletes. Ovechkin recently launched a movement in support of Putin.

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NHL players aren’t going to the Olympics for the first time since 1994, and a team of Russian players would be considered one of the favorites in the men’s hockey tournament. Former NHL star Ilya Kovalchuk, who’s playing in Russia’s Kontinental Hockey League, says players ‘‘definitely have to go to the Olympics.’’

The KHL has not yet commented about the Olympics, though president Dmitry Chernyshenko was sanctioned for his role as part of the 2014 Sochi organizing committee. If the KHL decides to opt out of the tournament and not stop its season, it could affect several countries’ rosters.

Ovechkin was vocal about representing Russia at the Olympics even if the NHL didn’t go, though he conceded before the season that it won’t happen and hopes to play in Beijing in 2022. He has played for Russia internationally 30 times, winning three world championship gold medals and called the Olympics a ‘‘once in a lifetime’’ opportunity.