The 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, are stacked with exciting events, but there is no question that the marquee competition is men's hockey due largely to the fact that the NHL sends its very best players overseas to participate.
The top 12 hockey-playing nations will vie for gold in Sochi, and most of them will have plenty of NHL talent leading the way. If things go as expected, however, that may change in the Winter Games that follow in 2018 and beyond.
Since the NHL has to halt play in the middle of the season to take part in the Olympics, it certainly isn't an ideal situation. Many have spoken out against it, including Philadelphia Flyers owner Ed Snider, according to Ken Campbell of The Hockey News:
I hate (the Olympics). It's ridiculous, the whole thing is ridiculous. I don’t care if it is in Philadelphia, I wouldn't want to break up the league. I think it's ridiculous to take three weeks off in the middle of the season. How can anybody be happy breaking up the season? No other league does it, why should we? There's no benefit to us whatsoever. If anything, I can only see negatives.
That point of view isn't limited to just Snider, and MSG's Stan Fischler can see the NHL pulling out of the Olympics moving forward in order to make way for amateur players:
If the Lords of Hockey at the NHL follow through on what they believe this will be the last Olympics for the pros. Time to go amateur as '80— Stan Fischler (@StanFischler) February 6, 2014
If that is ultimately the case, then hockey fans across the globe would be wise to take in the 2014 Winter Olympics and enjoy every second of the men's hockey tournament.
With 151 current NHL players participating in Sochi, the level of play simply can't get much higher. Excelling professionally is the main goal for these players, but doing so at the international level can make them legendary.
Here is a look at how every NHL player is faring in Sochi as they go all out to win gold in what could possibly be the NHL's final Olympic Games.