Somewhere on the way between the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat it came. Someone thought that the Olympics needed pro athletes to not only boost the Olympic profile, but the profile of pro sports as well.
We all remember the Dream Team...Magic, Michael, Bird, Sir Charles. In 1994, they arrived in Barcelona like conquering heroes and crushed every opponent they faced. Angola gets handed a lopsided defeat and before the game is over, they are asking for autographs. The NBA endorsed the players going to the Games by saying that it will globalize the game. In 1994, the game was already being globalized. Basketball was and is the inner-city soccer of the developing world. The third world had soccer to rally around because they were so poor they could go and find a ball or make one up out of rags, then play anywhere. In the developing world, the inability to take care of our people in need has led to urban poverty. It also led to kids getting a ball and heading to the concrete jungle and playing basketball...but I digress. Rich people play too, so don't send letters.
Since 1998, the NHL and the NHLPA, along with the IIHF have sanctioned that professional players can take part in the Olympic Ice Hockey Program. Leagues in Europe as well as the NHL condense their seasons so that they may take two weeks off in February to send the very best to play for Olympic Gold. It produces two weeks of chest thumping by the NHL, showing the world that the best players play in the best league in the world. Yawn...zzzz.
This Olympic Hockey Tourney has shown me something, that boring hockey is back. Gone is the up tempo 'new NHL'. In its place is a condensed tourney where all you have to do is ride a hot goalie and play suffocating defence to succeed.
The time is right for the Olympics to become what made it so great, an amateur competition. Get the NHL'ers out of the Games and give me true amateurs. Does anyone remember the Miracle on Ice? In this current format, the Miracle would be the thought that I could stay awake for the entire game.
Make the Olympics a under 23 competition in hockey and basketball. This way, young players have a choice, postpone potential riches for a shot at Olympic glory, or take the money and run. There's no shame in taking the money, but for those athletes who just play for the love of the game and/or aren't good enough to earn a living, the Olympics would be their end game, their shot at glory.
Does anyone remember Jim Craig? USA goalie-Lake Placid-1980. The USA goes on to stun the hockey world, to inspire millions not just in hockey, but in life, to believe that anything is possible. Jim Craig wades into the stands to hug his dad, and we all get a little misty. This scenario currently does not exist.
The experiment is over. Pro athletes are mercenaries who parachute in for the glory and then return to the golden palace. Amateurs are the poor buggers who fight in the trenches and are the people who make you and I believe that we can do it.
Everyone loves the underdog, bring back the underdog!
I have gone on record before these Olympics began that the pros should not be a part of the Olympics (NorthSound 1380-ESPN Radio and Everett Silvertips Broadcasts) . While the USA and Canada losing today make this article great timing, it is not sour grapes. Both teams played poorly and deserved their fate. DS.