Leave the Pro's at Home: NHLers Taint the True Meaning of the Olympic Games

Steve McSweenSenior Analyst IFebruary 27, 2009

There has been little debate recently about sending professional athletes to compete for their respective countries during Olympic.

It has been something that has been swept under the carpet, it seems, maybe due to the increase in revenue it has brought to the games.

Things are very different now as compared to where they were 20 years ago. The NHL has expanded to more clubs and walls have come down to allow numerous Europeans to showcase their skills in the best league in the world.

It is a much more even playing field when it comes to players that could be available for their respective countries roster come Olympic time.

There wouldn't have been a Russian juggernaut featuring a line including Igor Larionov, Sergei Makarov and Vladimir Krutov that dominated the games in Calgary in 1988 because the best players for the most part would be with their NHL clubs.

That being said, even with European clubs sending their best rosters there have still seen a share of upsets...anyone remember the "Miracle on Ice" USA team that beat that high powered Soviet club 4-3 then went on to beat Finland 4-2 in the gold medal game?

Now who is gonna argue that wasn't more exciting than the 1998, 2002 and 2006 games?

As a Canadian I was happy to see Mario Lemiuex captain the team to gold in 2002, but a seventh place finish in Turin in 2006 and 4th place in Nagano in 1998 was tough to stomach.

My two best memories of Olympic ice hockey came in the 1992 games from Albertville, France and 1994 games from Lillehammer, Norway. Both years Canada ended up with silver, but the gold medal games went down to the wire and were as entertaining as hockey gets.

Don't get me wrong, I love to watch the best in the world go head to head, but why don't we leave that for the World Cup of Hockey and let the guys not playing for millions settle it in the Olympics?