Gary Bettman says it's 'hard to envision' the NHL ever returning to the Olympics

So much for the NHL eyeing a grand return to the Olympics in 2022.

Days after a report indicated the league might be using its increased presence in China as a path to partaking in the Beijing Winter Games, NHL commissioner Gary Bettman told Sweden's SVT Sport, as relayed by SB Nation, that it's "hard to envision" the NHL ever returning to future Olympics.

Months after headlining the league's repeated stance against player participation in the 2018 PyeongChang Winter Olympics, Bettman did not rule out an NHL presence in Beijing for the 2022 Games, per SB Nation. The league's efforts in the 2017-18 China Games exhibitions, in fact, would suggest the NHL wants to play a big role overseas. But the commissioner also said it's difficult to imagine "a scenario where it makes sense" for NHL players to participate in any Olympics outside North America.

"I never say never, but I find it hard to envision a scenario where it makes sense unless, possibly, the Winter Games are back in North America where the time frame, and the attention, and the logistics -- travel -- are a lot different," Bettman said, per SB Nation.

Those words are unsurprising considering the NHL's insistence on keeping its 2017-18 regular season schedule intact -- an insistence that prompted NBC to essentially black out the league's games during the South Korea Games in February. If the most prominent of NHL players' voices are any indication, however, those words are also the latest example of Bettman and Co. shielding their most marketable stars from a global stage.

MVP Connor McDavid was one of countless big-name players to publicly call out the NHL for disallowing players to attend the 2018 Olympics and refusing to break up the regular season schedule. And while Bettman and league executives may be justified in preaching logistics and health concerns, as they have incessantly done since the NHL's first 2018 prohibition announcements, they won't be winning over any more fans among their players if they hold out of additional Winter Games.

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