Sport guide – Ice Hockey: fast, furious and intensely physical Olympic Winter entertainment

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Ice hockey is the Olympic Winter Games’ prime team sport and, for many fans, the event’s biggest draw. Fast, furious and intensely physical, it’s a true clash of nations.

The game was properly developed in Canada in the 1870s. It was contested at the summer Olympic Games in 1920 before switching to the winter event for Chamonix 1924. The women’s tournament was added in 1998.

Eight sides are lined up for the women’s event: Canada, USA, Finland, Russia, Sweden, Switzerland, Japan and South Korea. The four highest seeded teams play each other, with the top two in the group progressing to the semi-finals. The other four also play a round robin, with two progressing to the quarter-finals, where they meet the bottom two from the first group. The final is on 22 February.

Twelve teams will participate in the men’s tournament: Canada, Czech Republic, Switzerland, Republic of Korea, Russia, USA, Slovakia, Slovenia, Sweden, Finland, Norway and Germany, with the final on 25 February. Three groups of four play each other to determine seeding, followed by four rounds of elimination games.

Each on-ice team is made up of six players, including a goaltender who can be “pulled” if a coach chooses to utilise an extra attacker. They participate in a full contact sport, aiming to score more goals than their opponent across three 20 minute periods. Sudden death is added in the event of a tie, with the first side to score winning.

Games will be held at two brand new venues: the Gangneung Hockey Centre (capacity 10,000) and the Kwandong Hockey Centre (6,000), both in Gangneung.

Medals have historically been the property of the sport’s international ‘Big Six’: Canada, the Czech Republic, Finland, Russia, Sweden, and the USA.

Canada are the most successful Olympic nation (20 medals, 13 gold), while USA (16 medals, three gold), the old Soviet Union (nine medals, seven gold) and Sweden (11 medals, two gold) have also been major players over the years.

Canada have ruled recently, winning gold in both the men’s and women’s events at the Sochi 2014 and Vancouver 2010 Games.

Many National Hockey League stars will not be present for PyeongChang 2018 after the NHL failed to reach an agreement with the International Olympic Committee (IOC). Some star players say they will attend regardless of the resistance of the clubs.

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