In an interview with Russia Today, Caps star Alexander Ovechkin certainly looks like he'd throw his weight around if the NHL and the NHLPA don't come to an agreement to extend participation in the 2014 Olympics.
Unfortunately we don’t know whether the NHL players will be allowed to play in Sochi. How are you going to feel if you are not allowed to play in Sochi?
I will be there.
Even if that means you leaving the NHL?
So if push came to shove, you would leave the NHL to play in Sochi?
Playing in Sochi certainly figures to be a sticky issue down the road, as while the players overwhelmingly want to take part in the Olympics, the NHL's owners certainly don't care for shutting down the league for three weeks in February - particularly when games are being held in a time zone that is eight hours ahead of the Eastern seaboard and would likely be relegating live games to the early morning time slots as it was in 1998 from Nagano.
Part of the payoff for NHL owners to deal with the odd time slots in Nagano and Turin (2006) was the promise the next games would be held in North America, in Salt Lake (2002) and now Vancouver (2010). While 2018's site won't be determined for two more years, Chicago is a strong candidate to host the 2016 Summer Olympics, so the United States isn't submitting a bid for the Winter Olympics until 2022. Quebec City could be the lone North American site considered, but the odds are it won't be held in a TV-friendly time zone.
The NHL hasn't seen a great payoff from having its players participate in the Olympics, so it's very much in the air if they'll yield to the NHLPA's wish to shut down again in February in four seasons. Adding to the complication is insurance issues which is keeping some players off the ice in summer orientations as they don't want to risk their multi-million deals in auditioning for roster spots.
For his part, Ovechkin has been promoting the 2014 Olympics, appearing in Bejing last summer and certainly will be pushing hard for the players to head to his native land. However, if that bid falls short, it'll be worth watching if Ovechkin - and others - decide to try and take leave of absences during the Olympics to play for their home countries.