ST. LOUIS — The NHL's decision to opt out of player participation in the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing because of COVID-19 postponements has not been a universally popular decision amongst the players.
Blues forward and native Russian Vladimir Tarasenko voiced his displeasure with the NHL's decision to skip the Olympics on Tuesday when asked in a media session about cheering for team Russia in the World Juniors.
"I think every Russian athlete has a dream to play for the national team. It's very bad they took it away from us, I think it's unfair with the Olympics. They give the players a choice but we don't have a choice in the end. So I think it's very bad from them," Tarasenko said. "But for World Juniors we always cheer for the young guys. It's always exciting to see. They play with a lot of emotions. I think not many guys have played in a bigger stage before, and it's exciting for I think everybody on our team. I think everybody cheers for their nations and has bets and hopefully Russia can win."
Boston Bruins forward Brad Marchand became one of the most high-profile names to speak out on the Olympics decision this week, tweeting that it should be the players who made the choice whether to participate or not.
"I read a Brad Marchand interview I think yesterday. He said it right I think. They promised us we can go this year, they took it away but we're still playing here with all the restrictions and all the rules. I don't really understand the point where people are deciding for you," Tarasenko said. "There's way too many players who dreamed about (playing in) the Olympics growing up in any country in the world. Either it's Canada, or U.S., or Russia, or Finland or any other country. And then you're kind of preparing for it and dreaming about being named to the roster and then they just say like, 'Hey you can't go'. I think the players are the ones who are supposed to decide. I agree on this point. But I guess it's business and we follow what the rules are."
When asked if he would have played for Russia if selected, Tarasenko didn't hesitate.
"Of course. I think you'd be surprised at how many people would choose to go," Tarasenko said.
The Blues are set to resume their regular-season schedule on Wednesday against the Edmonton Oilers.
You can watch Tarasenko's entire interview by clicking here.