Can NHL afford to skip Sochi Games?

Capitals' owner Ted Leonsis has voiced support for his captain, telling The Hockey News last December if Ovechkin insisted on going to Sochi even if the league forbade it, he'd probably fly the superstar there himself.

Ovechkin isn't the only Russian superstar who feels this way. Pittsburgh's Evgeni Malkin said he'd join his countryman in Sochi even at the risk of heavy fines or a lengthy suspension.

If two of the NHL's biggest, most marketable superstars were to thumb their noses at the league and suit up for their home country in the Sochi games, it would not only be a huge embarrassment for the NHL but could also prompt other big-name stars from other countries to do the same.

Imagine the NHL continuing its 2013-14 season through the period of the Sochi Winter Games without Ovechkin, Malkin, Sidney Crosby, Zach Parise, Nicklas Backstrom, Anze Kopitar, Patrick Kane, Mikko Koivu, Zdeno Chara, Ryan Miller and Henrik Lundqvist. That's not to say all those players will follow Ovechkin and Malkin's lead but the possibility exists.

Not even league threats of fines and suspensions could prevent a mutiny of some of their elite players, which could have a devastating effect upon the rosters of their respective NHL teams, potentially becoming a rallying point for a currently rudderless PA, and an ugly public relations nightmare for the league. That might be all it takes to guarantee NHL participation in the 2014 Winter Olympics.

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