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Ovechkin will play for Russia despite NHL
01:52 - Source: TSN

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The NHL has announced it won't have its players participating in the 2018 Winter Olympic Games

But Washington Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin says, "I'm going"

CNN  — 

The NHL may not plan on being at the 2018 Winter Olympics in PyeongChang, South Korea, but Alex Ovechkin does.

On Tuesday, a day after the NHL announced it wouldn’t have its players participating in next year’s Winter Olympic Games, the Washington Capitals captain told a media scrum at Air Canada Centre in Toronto that his intention to suit up for Russia hasn’t changed.

“I didn’t change my mind, and I won’t,” Ovechkin said ahead of Tuesday’s game against the Toronto Maple Leafs.

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When asked why it means so much to him: “It’s my country,” the Russian said. “I think everybody wants to play there. It’s the biggest opportunity in your life to play in the Olympic Games. So, I don’t know, somebody (is) going to tell me, ‘Don’t go.’ I don’t care, I just go.”

The International Olympic Committee has said it will no longer reimburse the cost of travel and insurance for the hockey players, which it had done for the last five Winter Olympics. The International Ice Hockey Federation instead offered to cover the expenses for the upcoming Winter Games.

In the NHL statement released Monday, the league said, “The overwhelming majority of our clubs are adamantly opposed to disrupting the 2017-18 NHL season for purposes of accommodating Olympic participation by some NHL players.” It also added that it is open to hearing from the the IOC, the IIHF and the National Hockey League Players’ Association.

The NHLPA, meanwhile, said the players are “extraordinarily disappointed and adamantly disagree” with the NHL’s decision, calling it “shortsighted.”

“Any sort of inconvenience the Olympics may cause to next season’s schedule is a small price to pay compared to the opportunity to showcase our game and our greatest players on this enormous international stage,” the players association said Monday.

The IOC said Tuesday that it “obviously cannot treat a national commercial league better than not-for-profit international sports federations which are developing sport globally.”

Ovechkin said he’s hopeful a deal will get done.

“Right now, it’s still time to make a decision,” Ovechkin said. “You can say whatever, but the next year’s schedule is not out there yet. So if the schedule is not going to the Olympic Games, then you can see they don’t bluff. But again, (it’s) still (a) long time. Still everything can change. But in my mind, like I said already, I’m going. It doesn’t matter what.”