In the end, the best team won. Not the collection of the best players, but the best band of cohesive players. It wasn’t that Latvia or Slovakia or the Swiss weren’t cohesive, but they weren’t the best as a collective. Sweden was.
This isn’t an argument for eliminating pros. That’s only a good idea if the World Cup of Hockey can really live up to its name. The Olympics are not the premier international soccer event, the World Cup is. So, it can be done. There needs to be a best on best world championship.
And why? Because, as I’ve argued for more than 10 years now, hockey needs to copy soccer. Why? Because soccer, believe it or not Americans, is the most popular sport in the world by a country mile. Copying basketball (by hiring Bettman) assures only regional support. Soccer is a better template, because not only is it more successful, it more closely models the international talent pool that hockey depends on. Remove non-North American players, and the NHL would have to contract to 10 teams. Remove South American players, and European soccer would dwindle as well.
We need more, not less, professional national tournaments in hockey. We need the Americas Cup and the European Cup. We need more, not less, professional club tournaments in hockey. We need a tournament where the defending Stanley Cup champion plays a series against the Russian, Swedish, and Finnish Elite leagues. And where an American team wins the Stanley Cup, the best Canadian team should be included.
This will spread the sport by using national passions for fuel, instead of egoes and salaries.