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Ilya Kovalchuk should be Russia flagbearer, Vladislav Tretiak says

Dec 18, 2013, 9:35 AM EDT

Ilya Kovalchuk Reuters

A candidate to light the Sochi Olympic cauldron has one man in mind to carry another Russian honor at the Opening Ceremony.

Vladislav Tretiak, the legendary, three-time Olympic champion Soviet goalie, said current Russian hockey star forward Ilya Kovalchuk should be the Russian flagbearer at the Opening Ceremony.

“When people have come up to me and asked who could carry the Russian flag, I named Kovalchuk,” said Tretiak, 61, president of the Russian Hockey Federation, according to R-Sport. “He deserves it. I don’t want to offend the other players like [Pavel] Datsyuk, [Evgeni] Malkin or [Alex] Ovechkin, but they’ll be in Sochi later.”

He’s right. There might not be any NHL players at the Opening Ceremony on Feb. 7 because the NHL season does not begin its Olympic break until Feb. 9.

Kovalchuk, 30, does not play in the NHL anymore. He signed a 15-year, $100 million deal with the New Jersey Devils in September 2010 but now plays for SKA St. Petersburg after retiring from the NHL in July 2013.

He’s a three-time Olympian for Russia, winning bronze with the 2002 team.

Russia’s other top athletes seen as candidates to carry its flag in the Parade of Nations include three-time Olympic medalist figure skater Yevgeny Plushenko, two-time medalist bobsled driver Aleksander Zubkov and 2006 silver medalist luger Albert Demtchenko.

In 2010, Russia’s Opening Ceremony flagbearer was also a KHL player, former Pittsburgh Penguins forward Aleksey Morozov.

Plushenko was the Closing Ceremony flagbearer in 2006.

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