Russian star Alex Ovechkin says he will play in next year's Winter Olympics despite the National Hockey League’s decision not to participate in the Games.
Ovechkin, one of more than 30 Russian players in the NHL, said on April 4 he still planned to represent his home country in the 2018 Winter Games on February 9-29 in Pyeongchang, South Korea.
The NHL said on April 3 it would not restructure its season to accommodate the Games, making it impossible for league players to attend the Games without missing their team’s league matches.
It will be the first time in 20 years that the NHL has declined to pause its regular season for three weeks to allow stars to compete in the Olympics.
Ovechkin, the Washington Capitals star, said that despite the league’s decision, "I didn't change my mind and I won't."
"Because it's my country. 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," he told reporters.
The International Ice Hockey Federation said it was still hoping the NHL will reverse its stance and allow players to participate in the Games.