Sending real teams means sending actual national junior teams. Prior to 1981 Canada just sent the Memorial Cup championship team with a few ringers, akin to sending the Windsor Spitfires this year plus Sam Steel and Kale Clague or something like that. It wasn't close to Canada's best (ie no Bossy, Coffey, Bourque, Messier etc. ever playing at the tournament) so it isn't remotely shocking that Canada had a very weak record prior to 1982. Since Canada began sending real teams in 1982 it has won more tournaments than even the other two most successful teams added together, despite missing players due to the NHL in over 200 instances since 1982. For comparison sake, USSR/Russia has missed just over 20 players for the same reason. Less than 10% of the number that Canada missed. As said, adding the missing players wouldn't always change the results. For instance in 2002 I definitely suspect that the result of the tournament would be unchanged by adding NHLers. Other years it is obvious that there is a very good chance that the result changes, like in 2004 for instance. Regardless of these specific years though, once again adding over 200 players to Canada (Lemieux, Crosby, McDavid, Stamkos, Francis, Hawerchuk, Stevens, Shanahan, Turgeon, Lindros, Pronger, Yzerman, Niedermayer, Thornton, Seguin for instance) would not help the competitiveness of the tournament and would not help the popularity. I do agree that in recent years the competition is much tighter and Canada has not been impressive. For instance there are several years this decade when adding all of the NHLers probably wouldn't help Canada that much. That is a good thing for the tournament overall.