Citing a three-week layoff and the possible injuries that could occur from a condensed schedule, Commissioner Gary Bettman explained in March the league’s stance on participating in the 2018 Winter Games.
“The league isn’t anti-Olympics,” Bettman said. “We’ve been to five of them. The problem is the clubs are anti-disruption to the season. To disappear for almost three weeks in February when there’s no football, no baseball, there’s only basketball and us. To do it where there’s no programming for the NHL Network, for NHL.com, for all of our social media platforms — we just disappear.”
The International Olympic Committee had agreed to pay the players’ insurance and travel costs — approximately $14 million — but Elliotte Friedman of Sportsnet reports the NHL also asked for the IOC to compensate each club for lost revenue as a result of the reduced number of home games or have the league be named an official Olympic supplier or sponsor, so it could use the Olympic logo for use in marketing the league. Both ideas were rejected, leading the NHL to consider “the matter officially closed.”
Earlier this year, the NHL asked the players’ association to keep the current collective bargaining agreement in place through 2022 as a concession to the league that would allow the players to participate in the 2018 Winter Games. The players declined, with some, like Washington Capitals star Alex Ovechkin, insisting he would play for Russia, no matter the league’s decision.
“The same situation was with the  Sochi Games, they said NHL could not be allowed to come,” Ovechkin said, according to the Russian News Agency TASS. “I hope the sides will reach an agreement. … Anyway, I and other players will definitely come [to the Olympics 2018].”
This doesn’t mean the NHL is abandoning the idea of exposing an international audience to its game. The Vancouver Canucks and Los Angeles Kings will play preseason games in Shanghai and Beijing in September during the 2017 NHL China Games. And the Colorado Avalanche and Ottawa Senators will play regular season games in Sweden in November during the 2017 SAP NHL Global Series.