International sports mean more than the pros to me because there are no salaries and the players are playing for their country, an entity that has real meaning, rather than playing for whatever billionaire owner gave them the biggest contract to be a product in their business. Players can't be traded or sign with another team, their country is always their country. There is no entry draft in place to promote every team getting a chance to contend every few years, the countries just need to produce better players.
While I am a fan of the NHL, it just doesn't have the same meaning to me. The Devils' players generally speaking really don't have much attachment to New Jersey. They are just hired to play here. "New Jersey Devils" is really just a business, but Team USA has meaning outside of hockey. In international sports, and in college too, the players have the same connection to the team that the fans do.
I don't know really about any of this. Your opinion is fine, but for these players wearing the NHL sweater of the team that drafted them could be just as important as wearing a country's sweater. For the players it is about the love they get and the support. You kind of get overwhelmed if you win a gold because you have an entire country backing you, which has to be a surreal experience. Having said that, say you are Patrick Marleau. You have been a Shark for 15 years. You win a gold in Sochi and go right back to the US minutes after you win. You win a Stanley Cup for SJ, I would think that one has a bigger meaning.
New Jersey is always going to be a bad example because there isn't a great connection between the state or a city and the team. It would be different for many other teams and players that might very well have that connection.
I don't hate anyone on team Canada, but I have no interest in rooting for these hired guns, as someone said earlier, for two weeks when I root against them all year around. I don't have the connection with any of them, and I really don't care if they win or lose.
You speak of attachment, but it is a two-way street. Even if they did have the attachment they wanted, they would just be let down because the average fan turns on a player much faster than a player turns on an organization. You say it is a job or a business, but fans are into the business of winning, and that's it.