It should be irrelevant. When Pierre de Coubertin started the modern Olympics, his idea was a forum for the best athletes in the world to strut their stuff on a world stage (and make huge bucks for himself in the process). At the time that this happened, the world was full of amateur athletes.
Over time, the Olympic movement embraced the amateur athlete with the simple explanation that an amateur was an athlete who didn't get paid for hie athletic endeavours as his/her sole source of income.
During the 20th century, the lines between being a professional athlete and an amateur athlete blurred. Certain athletes were making more money as amateurs (especially in events such as track and field/figure skating) than some professional athletes through appearance fees and endorsements.
Let's talk hockey. Erich Kuhnackl was a star in the German Ice Hockey League, and played in the 1972, 1976, and 1980 Winter Olympics.
In 1975, the New York Rangers offered him a contract worth an estimated $400,000.00 USD a year............an amount at the time that would have paid him more than Guy Lafleur, Ken Dryden, Tony Esposito, Bobby Clarke, etc. He turned the Rangers down because he was making more money in the German league. Yet...because he didn't play in the NHL or a feeder league (AHL, IHL, CHL at the time) he was considered an amateur.
The 1980 US Olympic team pulled off a miracle. They were truly a bunch of amatuer athletes who beat a teams of seasoned professionals (the average salary in the Swedish league in 1979-80 was roughly the same as the average salary in the NHL at the time) as the members of the Soviet National Team were all paid to be hockey players for their respective teams. Prior to the Sarajevo Olympics in 1984 both Canada and the US entered lineups that had players who had played in the NHL, and Finland entered a player who had played in the WHA. The IOC ruled against the players who had played in the NHL, and ruled that the WHA had been an 'amateur' league........evcen though the average salary was higher than the NHL.
In short, there is no such thing as amateur athletics. Ask Michelle Kwan..............an Olympic eligible skater who has banked millions of dollars thorugh endorsements, appearance fees, and skating prizes. So long as her listed occupation is not figure skater....she can do this. Ask Carl Lewis......how much money did he pocket through endorsements in his career (and again it was millions).
Gone are the days when the average stockbroker could work all day and go home at night and do a few exercises and hope to make an Olympic team, especially in the glamour sports. Today's 'amateur' athlete trains full-time to be the best they can be and live off next to nothing from their respective sports federations whilke they bank millions in endorsements waiting to be able to spend them.
Just how professional is it? Ask Diadora and Canadian sprinter Ben Johnson. The guy 'wins' an Olympic gold medal, loses it 3 days later, and still gets a multi-million dollar endorsement deal from Diadora that allows him to drive the streets of Toronto in a Ferrari. That's an amateur?
In closing, The IIHF needs to make a decision about how important an Olympic Gold Medal is. FIFA has deemed the World Cup as they glamour event, and as a result, the Olympic Soccer event is closed to World Cup players. Maybe hockey should consider following suit and reserve the glamour for the Canada Cup/World Cup tournament and the annual World Championships and leave the Olympic tournament to the lesser stars.
*** Of note, the Olympic Soccer Tournament is not an integral part of the Summer Olympics, while the Olympic Hockey Tournament is a huge part of the Winter Olympics