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Capitals owner supports Alex Ovechkin's Olympic plans

Ted Leonsis says he's OK with forward playing in 2018 Games if NHL does not go

by Dan Rosen @drosennhl / Senior Writer

PALM BEACH, Fla. -- Forward Alex Ovechkin would have the support of Washington Capitals majority owner and chairman Ted Leonsis should he decide to play in the 2018 PyeongChang Olympics, even if the NHL doesn't agree to have its players participate in the tournament.

"It's not a tough spot for me," Leonsis said following the Board of Governors meeting Friday. "Alex Ovechkin and his family and the Capitals and I are in it together. He's given so much to our organization, and I would respect what he wanted to do and be very supportive of him. On this one matter I understand and I would support him."

Ovechkin said in September at the World Cup of Hockey 2016 that he would go to the Olympics to represent Russia, regardless of the NHL's decision on the participation of its players.

Video: Leonsis supports Ovechkin playing in Olympics

The NHL has not made a decision on the matter, although it was a primary topic of conversation at the Board of Governors session on Thursday.

NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman said Thursday there is a "strong negative sentiment" from the Board of Governors toward the prospect of players going to the Olympics for a sixth consecutive time.

On Friday, Leonsis said he would not take any punitive actions against Ovechkin should his player decide to go to South Korea if the NHL chooses not to participate.

Asked specifically Thursday if Ovechkin would be in breach of his contract if he does go to the Olympics without the NHL's support, Commissioner Bettman deferred his opinion.

"We're not going to go there today. There's no reason to," he said. "No decisions have been made. Nobody is issuing any threats or edicts. We'll save an answer for a different time."

Leonsis said his support for Ovechkin wouldn't waver even if it meant having him leave the Capitals during a race for the Stanley Cup Playoffs, which start less than two months after the Olympic tournament.

"We shouldn't be so focused on it; it's years away," Leonsis said. "But it's important to him and his family and, as I said, he's given so much to us, he doesn't ask for much in return, so if that was important to him I'd support him."

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