Olympic Hockey Primer

Well, Olympic hockey is finally here. I don’t know about you, but this could be some of the most exciting hockey outside of the Stanley Cup playoffs. Unlike the 2010 Vancouver Olympics, which got a special exemption, this year’s tourney will be held on the larger international-size ice surface.

 photo Olympicrink.jpeg

Your first reaction may be "holy crap that ice is big". The length of the ice surface is the same, but the Olympic ice is 15 feet wider. Other notable differences are a bigger neutral zone (8 feet longer) and a shorter defensive zone (by 6 feet). There is also an extra foot of room behind the goals. And no trapezoid! (Stay in that crease Hank.)

So how could the larger ice surface affect the play on the ice? For one thing you’ll see less north-south, dump and chase like in the NHL. With more room on the boards and in the corners there should be more east-west movement up the ice, in other words moving the puck up the weak side of the ice. Teams with speed and playmakers should be at an advantage. You should also see the defensemen play more of a positional game. Too much chasing of the puck carrier with so much open ice could lead to great scoring opportunities.

Another thing to watch out for? A hot goalie can steal a medal.

Rule differences:

NHL: 18 skaters plus 2 goalies

Olympics: 20 skaters plus 2 goalies

Olympics: "no touch" icing. Play is dead as soon as the puck crosses the goal line.

Checking to the head is a minor with a 10-minute misconduct, or a major with a game misconduct.

Fighting is rarely seen in the Olympics. Fighters receive a match penalty and are ejected from the game.

If an attacking player is caught standing in the crease then play will be blown and there will be a faceoff out of the attacking zone.

Penalty shots may be taken by any player on the team, not just the player who drew the penalty.

All preliminary-round games that are tied after 60 minutes go to a five-minute 4-on-4 overtime, and if there’s no score at the end of that extra period, the game ends in a shootout. In playoff rounds, games that don’t end in the 10-minute 4-on-4 sudden-death overtime period are decided in a shootout. In the gold medal game, a 20-minute 4-on-4 overtime takes place before a shootout determines a winner.

Shootout: Teams must use 3 different players in the first 3 rounds. After that, the coach may pick any player, who may shoot as many times as allowed.

Faceoffs: the attacking center must put his stick down first.

All players born after Dec. 31, 1974 must wear a visor.

Note to Hank: play will be stopped if there is a hard shot to the goalie’s facemask.

Each team gets one 30-second timeout. There are no commercial breaks.

Tournament Format:

Each team will play three games in the preliminary round to determine seeding for the next round. A team gets three points for a regulation win, two points for an overtime/shootout win, one point for an overtime/shootout loss, and no points for a regulation defeat. Four teams then will get a bye through the first playoff round: The best record in each of the three groups, as well as the best second-place team. The eight teams without a bye will face each other in single elimination. Finally, the four teams with byes and the four winners of the initial playoff rounds will be seeded in four quarterfinal match-ups. That will begin a single-elimination run to the gold medal, requiring three consecutive victories from that point.

It looks like it’s going to be a great tournament. Anything can happen and a hot goalie can bring a team far. Will Russia feel the pressure? Can Canada live up to expectations? Does the USA have the speed necessary on the larger ice? Will Hank lead Sweden to another gold? We shall soon see.

Please let me know if I screwed anything up or if I forgot anything.

Enjoy the games and GO USA!


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