With the Summer Games going on, there has been talk about the 2010 Games (and beyond) already. Julie Robenhymer discussed it on her guest post at GFH, but it was also brought up on a message board I frequent (Into The Boards); in which the idea of NHLers not participating in the Olympics after the 2010 Games.
Now, if the latter were to happen-- that would mean that it could be the last chance for some NHLers to win a gold medal in hockey. Who knows, Sidney Crosby could move into the Summer Games and try to win one on the three-meter springboard (it's an easy one, but come on). Anyway, back to the matter at hand-- it'll be extra incentive for some of these players to actually try hard. Obviously, the Canadian and US teams were both looked at like they weren't trying as hard as they could when it came to the Games in Turin-- so if it's the last chance to go for gold, you know they may turn it up a little bit.
Looking beyond the 2010 Games, would it necessarily be a bad thing if the NHLers don't play??
With hockey becoming more and more wide-spread and talent being there on all levels of play, I don't believe the talent level will drop off and there could be a deeper passion to go for gold. There's plenty of talented players from every country who don't play in the NHL, but other pro leagues. If you look at the Spangler Cup rosters for Canada, you see that they pull from all over Europe and the minors and do just fine. Who knows, the Canadians could bring back the touring National team like they did from 1983 to 1988. Sean Burke could still be available to play too.
Now, don't get me wrong-- I understand that NHLers would give more exposure to the game, but the NHL shouldn't have to shut down for three weeks while the Games are going on. It's not the same in other Olympic events, as the basketball is somehow in the Summer Games, the MLB doesn't often release players to play in the Olympics, and the MLS just recall other players while their season is going on. In addition, it would truncate the schedule making the stretch run even more grueling and lead to fatigue on some players. Granted, they are well conditioned athlete's, but still.
In the end, it would be a good idea to keep the NHLers out of the Olympics after 2010. Not only would it keep the league going, but also give some fans an alternate should their team be stinking up the joint by the time February rolls around. Plus, who knows what will happen when some players are on a stage like the Olympics. There could be some previously unknown players breaking out of their shell and playing their way to an NHL contract, just because they got the chance to show off their skill set. Who knows-- stranger things have happened.