Ice Hockey at the Winter Olympics
Ice hockey has been part of the Olympics since the summer Olympics of 1920. Ice hockey is a hugely popular sport in many parts of the world and North America in particular. Because the official rules for ice hockey were developed in Canada, and because Vancouver is hosting the Winter Olympic Games this year, there’ll be a lot of pressure for the Canadian team to bring home the gold this year.
Some form of hockey has been played for hundreds of years. Early forms of the game were played in Europe during the 1600s when they would use a stick to bat a snowball around on a frozen pond. (The word hockey comes from a French word for stick.) The game was formalized in 1879 in Montreal and soon, the sport's popularity grew and ice hockey competitions spread around the world. It became an official Winter Olympics event in 1924 for men, with women's hockey making its debut at the Olympics in 1998.
The International Olympic Committee (IOC) organizes a series of tournaments to establish a world ranking for international teams. The top 12 men’s teams can then compete in the Winter Olympics. The top 8 women’s teams compete. During the Olympics, the teams take part in a round robin tournament that takes them through to the medal rounds.
The Olympic version of ice hockey is closer to college hockey than to NHL play. Hockey matches at the Olympics tend to be less violent than NHL games — this, despite the fact that many of the teams contain NHL players. (An NHL player can only compete on the team of his home country.)
The game consists of three periods (20 minutes each). There is a 15 minute intermission after the first period. In the qualifying rounds, ties are permitted. However, win a winner must be established an overtime period is played. If there is a tie during a gold medal match, there is a 20 minute overtime period. If that also ends in a tie, they use a sudden-death shootout to break the tie.