Alex Ovechkin out of All-Star Game
"My heart is not there. I got suspended, so why [do] I have to go there?" the Capitals' captain and a two-time league MVP said Tuesday. "I love the [All-Star] game. It's a great event. I love to be there."
But Ovechkin added: "I feel I'm not deserving to be there right now. If I'm suspended, I have to be suspended."
Capitals general manager George McPhee said he supported Ovechkin's decision to back out of the event
"He really doesn't feel like he deserves to be there and doesn't want to be a distraction," McPhee told ESPN.com. "When he came in this morning, he said, 'I'm a suspended player and I don't deserve to be there.' "
Ovechkin was suspended three games Monday for a charging incident in which he launched himself to hit Pittsburgh Penguins defenseman Zbynek Michalek during Sunday's 4-3 overtime loss to the Penguins. No penalty was assessed on the play.
"Most bad thing is it's going to be all my career it's going to be like that," Ovechkin said Tuesday, referring to his status as a repeat offender. "My game is play physical, my game is play hard and I don't think it was bad hit, dirty hit. Yeah, I jumped but he don't get hurt. I don't get two minutes. I don't think it was three-game suspension."
Ovechkin had a goal and two assists in the game for Washington, which trailed Florida by one point in the Southeast Division enterting play Tuesday. He will be eligible to return on Feb. 4 against Montreal.
"We're all disappointed," McPhee told ESPN.com. "We didn't anticipate a three-game suspension. We didn't think it warranted that."
In 2009, Detroit Red Wings defenseman Nicklas Lidstrom and forward Pavel Datsyuk each were suspended one game for withdrawing from the All-Star Game. In this case, however, the NHL said it had "no intention of pursuing this matter further."
"In light of yesterday's suspension, we informed the Capitals that, while Alex Ovechkin was still welcome to participate in this weekend's All-Star festivities in Ottawa, we would not be insisting that he do so," NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly said in a statement. "We now understand that Alex has decided to withdraw from this weekend's events. Given the circumstances involved, we understand Mr. Ovechkin's decision in this regard."
Pierre LeBrun covers the NHL for ESPN.com. Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.