Hockey fans seem to enjoy seeing NHL players compete for gold. But some critics feel that the league would be better served by bringing back the World Cup instead, while others argue that there are simply too many international tournaments clogging up the hockey calendar.
What should the NHL do? It's a difficult debate, with plenty of good points on each side. After talking to several hockey insiders, I feel like I've got a good handle on the various arguments that will be presented this week. I'll list them here, and let the reader make up their own mind:
Pro: Olympic participation is extremely popular among players, at least according to the janitor we talked to when we called the NHLPA head office and asked to speak to the person in charge.
Con: The three-week tournament can impact the rest of the regular season by creating significant injury risk and increased fatigue for star players, resulting in an unfair competitive advantage for teams like the Oilers that don't have any.
Pro: Russian players were humiliated in a blowout loss to Canada in Vancouver; in 2014, it's only fair that they get a chance to be humiliated by the Canadians in front of their home fans, too.
Con: Foreign time zones can often cause games to be played in the middle of the night, instead of first thing in the morning the way NBC would prefer.
Pro: Sending the best players to the Olympics would create the opportunity for the sport to add to the long list of amazing international hockey memories we've enjoyed over the years, such as "The Miracle on Ice", "The Miracle on Ice", and also "The Miracle on Ice". (Point submitted by the Association of American Sportswriters.)
Con: You allow a few NHL superstars to participate in the Olympics, and the next thing you know one of them is riding around awkwardly in a pickup truck with a torch during the opening ceremonies.
Pro: International overtime rules make it possible for a team to be eliminated from the playoffs during a shootout; it wouldn't be fair if only Ranger fans ever got to know what that felt like.
Con: Olympic participation could be replaced by the return of a summertime World Cup, which would be great news for foolish bloggers who commit to writing twice-weekly hockey columns without first checking a calendar to make sure it's not the middle of freaking August.
Pro: Having NHL players in the Olympics offers the league a rare opportunity to finally spend some time talking about Sidney Crosby and Alexander Ovechkin.
Con: Olympic participation results in the cancellation of the annual All-Star Game, causing crushing disappointment for fans who enjoy hockey but can't stand seeing it played by players who seem to give a crap.
Pro: If the NHL had not gone to Nagano in 1998, the league would never be seeing the influx of highly skilled Japanese players it has now.
Con: The league's participation in the Olympics is almost unanimously enjoyed by fans, and therefore goes against their apparent business model.
Pro: International rules ban fighting during games, resulting in foreign players making the most hilarious faces when the Canadian team jumps them in their hotel lobby instead.
Con: Let's face it, any hockey competition that can result in a team run by Brian Burke and Ron Wilson making the playoffs is clearly deeply flawed.