Eugene Melnyk didn’t even have to think twice about the question.

If National Hockey League players aren’t given permission by the league to attend next year’s Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea, there’s no need for Ottawa Senators captain Erik Karlsson to ask his team’s owner for permission to suit up for Sweden. It won’t happen.

Asked by Postmedia if he would allow Karlsson to go to the Olympics — and the Senators’ star defenceman has never indicated publicly he would request permission to go — Melnyk put the hammer down right away.

“No, no, it would be no, a flat no,” Melnyk said. “I talked to (former Senators captain Daniel) Alfredsson about it and he understands the player would want to (attend), but I’m not going to risk that.”

Melnyk pointed to the 2005-06 season, when the Senators lost goaltender Dominik Hasek to a mysterious adductor injury after he was hurt while playing for the Czech Republic in the Turin Winter Olympics.


Hasek never returned to the net and the Senators lost in the second round of the playoffs to the Buffalo Sabres with Ray Emery in net.

“I had a Cup in 2006 parked for me and waiting for me,” Melnyk said. “We were arguing about whose name was going to go on the (Cup). We were there and what happens? Hasek. I’m not going to do that.

“Can you imagine if (Karlsson) goes and he gets a permanent injury? You know what I’m saying? That’s my view,” Melnyk said.

Washington Capitals owner Ted Leonsis has indicated he wouldn’t stand in the way of captain Alex Ovechkin if he wanted to try to win gold with Russia even if the league doesn’t agree to send players.

“Good, go ahead, wait until you’re going into the Stanley Cup final or you’ve got a hot team or you’re favoured for the Stanley Cup and Ovechkin is gone,” Melnyk said. “Go to (Montreal Canadiens netminder Carey) Price. He gets hurt< what happens to the Canadiens?”

Deputy NHL commissioner Bill Daly indicated such decisions might be up to individual owners once the league has ruled on whether it will participate in the 2018 Olympics or not.

“We’ve started giving some to thought to that. It’s certainly not an issue that we have to resolve today,” Daly said. “I would be surprised if we allowed it to be club-by-club issue at this point. I think there will be a league response.”

At this point, it doesn’t sound as if NHL players will participate in the 2018. The idea hasn’t been ruled out, but the clock is ticking and nobody is optimistic it will happen.