The Vancouver hockey tournament is the fourth for which the NHL has halted its season so players could represent their homelands. Players' participation in the Games is determined through collective bargaining, and the current labor agreement expires in September, 2011, before the Sochi Games.
Bettman said the NHL believes enough in the potential value of Olympic exposure that it has disrupted its season for an event in which it makes no money, doesn't determine the TV schedule -- which minimizes its chances for prime-time coverage in Games held many time zones away in Russia -- and has no control over $2.1 billion worth of players.
"You have to look at the impact on our season," he said, adding that NHL teams have played 80 games more under this season's Olympic-compacted schedule than they had at the same point during 2008-09. "There are a lot of decisions yet to be made."
Fasel contended that accelerating hockey's growth should outweigh business concerns. "For our game, this tournament is the pinnacle in our history," he said.
Asked also about the lack of depth in the women's tournament, Fasel rejected suggestions that the field should be trimmed. The women's game is growing, he said, though slowly in many countries.
"The women will come. Don't worry," he said.