"The 2010 Vancouver Games could be the end of the NHL's brief participation in Olympic hockey. NHL commissioner Gary Bettman told Reuters on Tuesday that, following Vancouver, his league may rethink its policy of suspending play in mid-season so players can compete in the Olympics. That means the 2014 Winter Games in Sochi, Russia, could be the first since the 1994 edition in Lillehammer to not feature hockey's best men's players." (CBC)
The NHL doesn't make any money off the Olympics. In fact, they probably lose a buck or two. And much like when the League decided to sign a TV deal with Versus, instead of ESPN, the NHL sees things only in dollars and cents. They don't see the Olympics as a way to grow the game, particularly in European markets. They don't see that if Team USA were in the Gold medal game, many people in the States would become fans of the game.
The NHL doesn't have much going for it, but it does have two things the other leagues don't. It has players who would all kill to represent their countries, and it has more international appeal than every sport except basketball.
So instead of using these tools to grow the game in burgeoning hockey markets like Germany and Britain, the NHL wants to make sure the Ottawa Senators can play the Atlanta Thrashers without any interruption.
The NHL is dying. As BMack wrote earlier, the players aren't happy with the CBA. Teams like Phoenix are hopelessly bankrupt. Then there's an ever-growing threat in Europe called the KHL: A potential pan-European league that wants to someday contend with the NHL.
Right now, leagues like the KHL are prevented from signing NHL players, but more and more Russians are staying home instead of competing against North American players.
The NHL could grow a pair, let things like the Olympics be played, and work together with the KHL to one day have the first truly global sports league. But instead, they'll sign TV deals with Versus, constrict the salary cap to piss off players (because revenues are down because nobody in Miami cares about hockey), and prevent hockey fans from seeing Finland play Canada, and the US play Russia, and Germany play Belarus, and the Czech Republic play Latvia.
The biggest miracle in hockey history isn't the US Olympic team in 1980, it will be if the NHL is still alive in 2020.