But that hasn't always been the case.
In 1956 and 1960, the players representing Canada at the Winter Games had full-time jobs outside of hockey and were strict amateurs.
In the lead-up to the Canadian men's team's quarter-final game against Latvia on Wednesday in Sochi, Russia, CBC Kitchener-Waterloo looked back at the legacy left by members of the Kitchener-Waterloo Dutchmen, who represented Canada in the 1956 and 1960 Olympics.
1956 Olympic Games
In 1955, the Dutchmen beat the Fort William Beavers 4-1 to take the Allan Cup senior men's national championships. The win qualified them to represent Canada at the Games in Cortina d'Ampezzo, Italy, in 1956.
"It was quite exciting you know, because we had to go to Eaton's and get measured for Olympic blazers, and we had nice Canadian Olympic coats," said 1956 Dutchmen team captain Jack McKenzie.
"Of course there was a lot of publicity. I have to say too that in those days, the Olympic association didn't have very much money and the people of Kitchener-Waterloo contributed a lot of money to send the team," added McKenzie.
At that time, rules governing amateur status were strict and players had day jobs.
Some of the original Dutchmen team were not allowed to compete at the Games in Italy because they had formerly been professional players, and five new Junior B players were added to the roster instead.
"We weren't hockey stars like you see today; we had jobs and worked and played hockey as a sideline," said McKenzie. "Like any Canadian boy, you started just as soon as you got a pair of skates and your parents could drag you out to the corner rink."
McKenzie says some worked at the Bauer skate factory, others pumped gas or hauled logs.
"Everybody worked. We had our own business, so I had no trouble," said Butch Martin, who played both as a forward and defenceman for the Dutchmen. "I think all the other guys, the team either got them jobs or they got jobs where they'd be free at 5 o'clock in the afternoon. A few of them were school teachers — I think we had 3 or 4 guys that taught school,"
A video from the CBC archives shows Dutchmen goalie Denis Brodeur, father of New Jersey Devils goaltender Martin Brodeur, wearing a gas jockey's uniform and pumping gas at a service station.
"Yeah we were excited, I was," said Butch Martin. "Like a lot of us, it was the first big airplane ride I had. We were on that plane a long time because it didn't go quite as fast as the jets go now. But the whole thing was exciting."
Martin was one of just Dutchmen on both the '56 and '60 Olympic teams.
"Canada had won the gold in every Olympics up until that year and so we were the favourites going in," said McKenzie.
But it was not to be. The Dutchmen won bronze in 1956, with the U.S. taking silver and the Soviet Union taking gold.
"It was a little disappointing not to be able to bring the gold back to the people of Kitchener, because they had supported the team emotionally and financially," said McKenzie.
"I can remember the disappointment, it was really kind of a tragedy that we had finished third. That was a very moving ceremony. I can always identify with the medal presentations when I see them on TV," said McKenzie.
"You know time's the biggest healer. If you lose, it seems really important that day," said Martin.
"Charlie Brooker and I were in the dressing room side by side, after that first time we'd lost in Cortina.
"And Charlie looks at me and he's dead serious. He hadn't played too much so he was a little upset anyhow. He says, 'Don't worry about it.' He says, 'Two years from know you won't even remember what day this was.'"
"And that's kind of true," said Martin. "Anything like that seems more important the day it happens."
The Whitby Dunlops won the Allan Cup senior men's national championships in 1959, which gave them the right to compete at the Olympics in Squaw Valley, California in 1960. However, the Dunlops turned down the opportunity, so the K-W Dutchmen competed again.
"At Squaw Valley, it was better because we were all living at the same place, we ate in one big dining room so you got to know everybody," said Martin.
"We had one guy that was along, Cliff Pennington, he was really a young guy but he was kind of outgoing. He'd sit at a different table every night at dinner and after dinner he'd move around. He knew everybody there and he acted like he could speak every language. He couldn't, but he'd kind of jabber away, but he got to know everybody there," said Martin.
Butch was a forward in Squaw Valley, scored six goals and had six assists in seven games at the Olympics.
"The first game we played in the '60 Games, Darryl Sly was teaching school in Elmira; him and I would to go to the Games together. I guess he passed and I scored in the first period, and after we score, we're talking, coming back to centre ice and he says, 'Those guys in the coffee shop in Elmira, they'll be just chirping tomorrow morning.'"
The Dutchmen lost in their final game against the United States, taking home a silver medal. The Soviet Union took bronze in 1960.Suggest a correction