This is simply about what people, as fans, want to see in their 2014 Olympic tournament.
The debate debate over full NHL participation is an endless as "Religion: What Is The One True Faith?" The emergence of the KHL in Russia and the possibility of the NHL expanding to Europe (Kitchener-Waterloo is officially part of Europe, by the way), are going to influence what the NHL does for the Sochi Olympics.
There's an argument that it should become an under-23 event like Olympic men's soccer. The best rebuttal, though, is that wouldn't make for a more competitive tournament -- it would just be like the World Juniors. Switzerland or Slovakia would not have the depth to keep up with Canada in an age-group tournament. The other rebuttal is economic. In soccer, there's an economic reason why events like the FIFA U-20 World Cup are so tightly contested. Countries such as Nigeria might not be able to put together a great senior national team, but have very talented young footballers. That doesn't exist in hockey, which is a game played by rich countries.
As for reverting to the rules in 1988, '92 and '94, when there was limited NHL participation, the best argument is the Spengler Cup. It's a good tournament and each year, it's largely ignored in Canada. There's no better proof than the Olympic baseball tournament that Joe Public isn't going to watch second-tier pros play against each other, even when it has the Five Rings attached. That's why Major League Baseball wised up and created its own tournament.
It's not about what you think might happen over the next 5 1/2 years. It's about what you would like to see -- all pros, young pros or minor pros.
A true Olympic junkie in Canada would perhaps argue that maybe men's hockey should get dropped from the Games entirely. It would be nice knowing that our best and brightest sportswomen would not get squeezed out by the attention lavished on the hockey players who command the media spotlight the rest of the time. But go tell that to Dick Pound, who might be about the only one who would listen.
NHLPA looks to Olympic participation beyond 2010 (David Shoalts, globesports.com)
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