It's getting very, very hard to sympathize with the National Hockey League when it comes to Olympic participation.

For a while, it was easy. The International Olympic Committee was on the other side of the table, an organization that makes FIFA look like Amnesty International by comparison. Pick your toxicity: The bottomless corruption? The embarrassing attempts to remain apolitical while operating a wholly political event? The bidding process that rewards the municipality that diverts the most essential public funds to build a velodrome?

How about this one: Believing that a professional sport league -- one that shuts down its regular season and loans its assets to the Winter Games -- should choke on the Olympic spirit rather than ask for any tangible benefits from the relationship.

Which is absurd.

Hence, the NHL was on the side of good and light in its tussle with the IOC. Since 1998, the league's players had made the Olympic men's hockey tournament every four years the greatest series of best-on-best events we've ever seen, but the league never gained anything substantial from it. It didn't share in the profits. It didn't have its branding on site for the Games. Moments like Sidney Crosby's golden goal in 2010 might as well have happened on a different plane of existence; the NHL still can't use video of it for any purpose.

The NHL drew more sympathy when the IOC inexplicably decided to pull back its fundamental funding for NHL players -- things like charter flights, accommodations and insurance -- ahead of the 2018 Winter Olympics in South Korea. (The International Ice Hockey Federation's attempt to scare up money to bridge that gap was too little, too late in 2017.)