By Allan Muir
Alexander Ovechkin has never made a secret of how important the 2014 Sochi Olympics are to him as a player and as a proud Russian.
Shortly after Sochi was announced as the host city, he accepted a position as an international ambassador to help promote the Games. And well before the NHL committed to allowing its players to attend, Ovechkin announced that he would be there to play for Russia . . . no matter what. "I don't care," Ovechkin told ESPN.com. "I'll go play in the Olympic Games for my country. If somebody says to me you can't play, see ya."
Fortunately, Ovi will head to Sochi in February with the full blessing of the NHL and the Capitals because all parties reached an agreement to send the world's best players to the Games.
But will he have the same blessing if he heads overseas on the eve of the season opener to take part in the Olympic torch relay?
According to a report in the Washington Post, the Capitals and Ovechkin’s agent both said that while the Russian Federation has asked Ovechkin to participate in the relay, there hasn’t been a decision on whether he will take part.
Hey, good for him if he can pull it off. The torch relay is an amazing experience. There's a hitch, though: the relay starts after the torch is lit on Sept. 29 in Olympia, Greece, just two days before Washington opens the regular season in Chicago.
Though the event runs 123 days, that first day would appear to be the only window that would allow Ovechkin to participate.
And it sounds like they're already counting on him being there.
"Who will be the first of the Russians [to carry the torch] in Greece and who will be the first in the Red Square?" teased Olympic organizing committee chairman Dmitry Chernishenko at an event on Monday in Buenos Aires. "It's a secret that we'll try to keep right to the end, but they will be recognized and loved by all people.
"Will one of them be Ovechkin? I can't hide anything from you! Yes, Ovechkin will take part in the Greek segment of the relay, but whether he will be the first runner or not, I won't say."
So yeah. If you bought preseason tickets to see the Caps host the Flyers in a preseason game on the 27th or to watch them visit the Blackhawks on the 28th, well, you probably won't be seeing the Ovechkin in action. It probably won't be much of a treat to watch a jet-lagged Ovechkin take the ice in the opener, either. But that's a fairly small, albeit unusual, price to pay to keep The Franchise happy.