Sportsnet gave viewers an appetizer of an interview with Ottawa Senators owner Eugene Melnyk set to air on Sunday.
As is customary when with an NHL owner, a reporter is required to ask about the Olympics. Ted Leonsis made headlines a few weeks back by giving his players permission to go play in PyeongChang even if the NHL decided not to participate.
On giving Erik Karlsson the same permission to go play for Sweden during the season, Melnyk replied in the most Eugene Melnyk way possible:
So I’m going to give Sweden my best player at the risk of him being injured. Beating our Canadian team. That doesn’t make sense. Maybe if it was a Canadian going to play for Canada… maybe. But right now it doesn’t make any sense for our franchise, or it’s not fair to our fans, if we were to lose him god forbid in a year like this, to an injury in the Olympics.
Let’s recap: if Karlsson were Canadian, Melnyk might take the risk.
It’s completely possible the Senators owner was attempting to be glib with the Canadian comment, but c’mon son, this is Eugene Melnyk. He also implies the Swedes would beat the Canadians with Karlsson. That’s a debate for another day, though.
Bottom line: the idea of Karlsson going remains a ‘flat no,’ as Melnyk said to the Ottawa Citizen on Friday.
When Sportsnet spoke to Karlsson before the game on Saturday he said, “I really want to go [to the Olympics], and feel that all the players do, too.”
Should the NHL decide not to go to PyeongChang, it’ll be fascinating to see how many players defy their owners and go anyway.