This was a big topic at the Hockey Summit.
The players want to go - and the league sort of wants to be there, but it is a tough call.
What is everyones opinion on issue ? Does it need to be solved ?
A way to perhaps make it more palatable to NHL owners after the jump.
The location of the next Olympics implies a shut down of the NHL for 2 weeks or more if NHL players are going to be there. That length is problematic and probably the biggest issue. The second problem is the punishing of strong NHL teams by having a large number of their players in the Games ( 11 for Detroit in 2002). I think that there is a way to reduce some of that impact by doing two key things, limiting participation from NHL rosters, and staggering a shut down with the American Hockey League.
Step 1 - Inform the IIHF of limited NHL participation. Cap the commitment of each NHL team to 4 roster players and 1 minor league player. This makes 150 players under NHL contract in North America available.
Step 2 - Host a national draft 6 weeks before the Games - say right after the Winter Classic. Allow all participating nations to draft players until either the 150 are selected or all teams pass. European teams might still fill a third to a half of their roster from European clubs, so the 120 NHL players should easily stock the top 8 nations.
Step 3 - Release Olympic drafted players 3-4 days before the Olympics. Shut down the American Hockey League for a period of 10 days.
Step 4 - Allow NHL teams to call up 4 players from the AHL - with a suspension of all waiver requirements.
Step 5 - Continue with NHL divisional games only for the 10 day period of the AHL shutdown. Olympic round robin play overlaps by a week.
Step 6 - Shut down the NHL for 10 days - return AHL players, Olympics conclude.
So the Olympics get the best players, the NHL gets a shorter shutdown, finite participation rates and the marketing opportunity of the Olympics. Even that period of AHL call ups might be interesting as a "future look" for teams as the prospects come up and play in the Show. The AHL also gets a bit of a highlight as after those players return - they become the feature game in North America and maybe a little more exposure - a la the recent national TV deal they have announced.
I would hope also that the Olypmic movement pays for big insuance money to the NHL for the loaning of the assets.