First, step away from the ledge. Next, grab your anxiety pills to calm down. Read on.
That scenario won't percolate for another five years, but really four years for it to be really resolved. As Sport-Express' Slava Malamud reported (thanks to Tuvanhillbilly), Ovechkin, as well as Evgeni Malkin and Ilya Kovalchuk appear to have no problem with walking out on their teams to participate in the 2014 Olympics in Sochi, Russia.
It's known that the NHL isn't in love with breaking for the Olympics and hoped to have shut down the league's participation after Vancouver, but having Russia selected for the following winter Olympics forced the league's hand to be fair to its European players and fans.
Malamud reported NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman was uncertain during an All-Star break press conference about Sochi, and Scott Burnside's interview with Bettman leaves a lot to be desired on the Olympics (two one-sentence empty quotes from Bettman on the topic amid nine paragraphs of opinion and analysis? Really?).
The impetus of Malamud's reporting was based on part by this statement by Bettman:
"I understand from the Players' Association that the players seem to be very much in favor of continuing Olympic participation," said NHL commissioner Gary Bettman. "That will be something that obviously has to be taken into account. But there are lots of issues - competitive, logistical - relative to taking a break during the season. I think the break is unnatural. It disrupts the flow of our season." -- The Boston Globe
If an agreement isn't reached, a trio of Russian players appear to be ready to bolt, including our beloved Ovechkin. After speaking to Malkin about the importance of the Olympics and Sochi, Malamud turned his attention to Ovechkin.
After a few minutes, just to ease my conscience, I quoted these words to Ovechkin and asked if he was truly ready to go counter to the NHL and willfully go to Sochi. The usually talkative and cheerful Alexander answered quite laconically and quite seriously:
Yeah, um, this needs to be taken care of. Sure, it is five years away, and Vancouver still hasn't been played yet. But obviously it's now on the minds of the players.
So, how many players, regardless of nationality, would bolt or bluff in 2014 if no agreement is reached?
You could look at just D.C. and its Russian contingency and you know we would have a problem without Semin, Ovechkin and Varlamov. That is unless Ovechkin's claim that a Russian machine, in fact, never breaks, then add Fedorov and Kozlov. (But they sure can wear down.)
I imagine that not every player would walk regardless of a threat of contractual violations, fines, suspensions or just because.
Despite Bettman's concerns, I think it would be best to let the NHL take a break for the Sochi Olympics and then call it quits from the Olympics for the time being.
It would avoid adding a potential riff with Russian players who could be given an easy excuse to go to the Krazy Hockey League.
One solution doesn't involve NHL players, really. Making it work is a difficult task, though.
It’s about TV production and storytelling and an amateur American superstar.
And really they go hand-in-hand.
NBC wouldn’t have had monster ratings for Michael Phelps’ swimming in Beijing if NBC Sports president Dick Ebersol didn’t convince the Olympic organizers to have swimming events changed to prime time in North America.
Ebersol wouldn’t have had to do that unless he had an athlete as All-American and competitive as Phelps going for a record (time for longest bong hit?).
Unless a Cold War is a boilin' finding a compelling team to follow isn't going to happen. You're going to have to hope for a compelling character for TV to focus on, basically America's version of Alex Ovechkin and Wayne Gretzky.
That may night happen in time for Sochi, but Americans should get to work trying to produce such a specimen in time for 2022.