I’m not normally a big hockey fan, but I’ve been enjoying the Olympics and thought this was smart from Barry Petchesky:
The quality of players is simply better. Look at the rosters of the top teams in the Olympics. Not a third- or fourth-liner among them. No guys on the team just for the PK, or to neutralize the opponent’s first line. These teams are stronger, faster and generally more skilled than any NHL team.
This is what makes Olympic hockey really stand out for me compared to a lot of other international team sports competitions. Injecting a little nationalistic rivalry into sports is always fun, but if you look at something like basketball only the United States can regularly field a squad that’s better, talent-wise, than your average NBA team. At the moment the Spanish National Team would also probably be better than most NBA teams, and in the past that was true of Argentina, but the result is basically some slim pickings. Hockey delivers a tournament where you see really good teams going at it for their country. And of course this is part of what makes the World Cup great—soccer is a sufficiently popular sport worldwide that many countries can field excellent teams.