Heading into the 2014 Olympic Games in Sochi, men’s ice hockey looks to have fielded the most competitive ice hockey competition to date. Gone are the days where the Olympics were dominated by primarily two to three countries on the ice rink.
Russia (formerly the Soviet Union) won gold six out of seven times in a stretch from 1964 to 1988, with the lone silver medal coming in the historic 1980 Olympic Games when the United States pulled off an incredible upset to win their first gold medal in ice hockey since 1960.
Canada is synonymously known as a country which takes ice hockey very seriously. Some Canadians learn to ice skate as soon as they take their first steps as a small child. It shouldn’t come as much of a surprise that the Canadians have won the most Olympic gold medals in ice hockey with eight, including the most recent Olympic Games in 2010. They’re poised to make it nine gold medals after the 2014 Olympic Games in Sochi.
Ice hockey has come a long way in the United States since their last gold medal appearance in 1980, known infamously as “the miracle on ice” which was later made into the popular movie “Miracle.” In 2010, the Americans were well on their way to win their first gold in 30 years, but came up short to the Canadians in overtime of the gold medal game. Four years later, do the Americans still have what it takes to compete with the Russians and Canadians for gold?
The best hockey players in the world convene in Russia this year to compete for Olympic gold. For some countries like Slovenia, competing in their first-ever Olympic hockey tournament, the pressure to compete with the bigger, ice hockey-friendly countries poses a challenge. For others, like host Russia, Canada, the U.S., Sweden and Finland, the pressure to compete isn’t nearly as rattling as the pressure put on them to win it all.
There are 12 countries competing for the gold and when the competition kicks off Wednesday afternoon, as many as half of the teams in the event have a legitimate shot of pushing for that gold medal.
12 teams split into three groups.
Group A: USA, Russia, Slovenia, Slovakia
Group B: Canada, Finland, Norway, Austria
Group C: Latvia, Sweden, Czech Republic, Switzerland
In the preliminary round, each team will play three games—one each against the other three teams in their assigned group (Feb. 12-16).
At the end of the preliminary round, the teams will be ranked with the following criteria (in this order):
- Position in preliminary group
- Goal difference
- Goals for
- IIHF ranking
The top four teams get a bye into the quarter-final round, while teams five through 12 will play each other in the qualification playoffs (Feb. 18).
The four winners in the qualification playoffs will join the four teams who received a bye in the quarterfinals (Feb. 19).
The semifinals (final four teams) will take place on Feb. 21, with the losers of each match competing for a bronze medal on Saturday, Feb. 22, at 10 a.m. ET and the winners of each match competing for gold on Sunday, Feb. 23, 7 a.m. ET.
Pennsylvania Hockey Players Competing
Sidney Crosby and Chris Kunitz – Canada
Paul Martin and Brooks Orpik – USA
Olli Maatta and Jussi Jokinen - Finland
Evgeni Malkin - Russia
Michael Raffl – Austria
Mark Streit – Switzerland
Jakub Voracek – Czech Repulic
Kimmo Timmonen – Finland
Andrej Meszaros – Slovakia