Winter Olympics


 Olympics Front
ArrowSport by Sport


Everything You Need to Know About Ice Hockey

 How It Works
 1994 Gold
 Critical Moment
 How It Works
 The Basics
 U.S. Outlook
 Others to Watch
 Looking Back at Lillehammer

Venues: The gold medal games will be played at a 10,104-seat arena called "Big Hat," so named for the shape of its exterior, including a roof designed with gently sloping surfaces that is meant to express continuity with the mountains surrounding Nagano. Most of the preliminary games will be played at "Aqua Wing," in the Nagano Sports Park in the Higashi Wada district of Nagano City. It features a cylindrical, retractable roof that will open in the summer of 1998 when the arena will be converted into a municipal swimming pool.

1994 Gold: In what is considered one of the greatest hockey finals, Sweden upset Canada in a sudden-death penalty shootout.

Critical Moment: A quick score can come after an end-zone face-off. When an official drops the puck between two opposing players, the offensive player tries to control the puck, pass it to a teammate for a shot on goal.


Players are sent off the ice for two-, five- or 10-minute penalties. If the penalty is serious, the player may be suspended for the remainder of the game. Here are the most common penalties:

Tripping a player with a stick, foot or hand.

Checking an opponent with an elbow.

High sticking:
Raising a stick above shoulder level against an opponent.

Using the stick to strike or swing at an opponent.

Constraining an opponent with a stick.

How It Works: The format for the men's hockey competition has been changed since the introduction of NHL players into the Olympics. Fourteen teams will play in Nagano. But six of these teams — Sweden, the United States, Canada, Russia, Finland and the Czech Republic — will automatically qualify for the championship round. Eight other teams play to qualify. They have been separated into two groups and will play a round-robin format with the winner of each group advancing to the championship round.

In the championship round there will again be two groups playing a round-robin format. After the round-robin portion, there will be a quarterfinal round matching the winner of Group A (A1) against the fourth-place team of Group B (B4), B1 vs. A4, A2 vs. B3, and B2 vs. A3. The winner of A1 vs. B4 will play the winner of B2 vs. A3, and the winner of B1 vs. A4 will play the winner of A2 vs. B3, with the winners of those two games meeting in the gold medal game, and the losers meeting in the bronze medal game.

Preliminary Round
Group A Group B
Italy France
Austria Germany
Slovakia Japan
Kazakhstan Belarus
Championship Round
Group A Group B
United States Russia
Sweden Finland
Canada Czech Republic
Group A Winner Group B Winner

The Basics: Men's teams will have 23 players, while women's teams will have 20. A team has only six players on the ice at a time: one goalkeeper, two defenders and three forwards. Games are made up of three 20-minute periods, separated by two 15-minute intermissions. The Olympic rink is about 15 feet wider than an NHL rink, giving players more room to skate.

Also, in Olympic hockey physical play is treated much more harshly than in the NHL. For example, a second major penalty in the same game carries an automatic game-misconduct penalty, and any player starting a fight is assessed a match penalty.

History: Although Canadian hockey teams traveled to the United States to play exhibition games in the late 1800s, the United States did not compete against teams from outside of North America until 1920. That year, the Americans made their debut at the Antwerp Olympics. Led by hockey Hall of Famer Francis "Moose" Goheen, Team USA won the silver medal, its lone loss coming against Canada. In 1924, the Americans repeated as silver medalists at the Chamonix Olympics.

Until the creation of the United States Amateur Hockey Association in 1920, amateur hockey had been controlled by the International Skating Union. The USAHA disbanded at the end of the 1925-26 season and left amateur hockey in the United States without a governing body until 1930 when the Amateur Athletic Union took over. During that period of instability, the U.S. missed the 1928 Olympics and 1930 World Championship.

The United States rebounded at the 1932 Games, held in Lake Placid, N.Y., to win another silver medal. The United States won back-to-back silver medals at the 1952 and 1956 Winter Olympics, and at the 1960 Games in Squaw Valley, Calif., the Americans beat Canada and the Soviet Union on their way to the gold medal.

The victory at Squaw Valley is credited with prompting a tremendous growth of the sport in the United States as high school programs began feeding increasingly skilled players into the college hockey system.

The Americans won a silver medal at the 1972 Olympics, and eight years later the United States battled its way to a gold medal at the 1980 Olympics in Lake Placid.

Women's hockey, which has been played as far back as 1916, joined its male counterpart on the international scene in 1990 with the advent of the first IIHF Women's World Championship. The U.S. women won the silver medal in 1990, and have brought home silver in the two world championships (1992 and 1994) and two Pacific Women's Championships (1995 and 1996) since then. Women's ice hockey will debut as a medal sport in Nagano.

Key Matches (Men)
EventDateTime (ET)
U.S. vs. Sweden Friday, Feb. 1312:45 a.m.
U.S. vs. A1 WinnerSaturday, Feb. 1412:45 a.m.
Canada vs. SwedenSaturday, Feb. 144:45 a.m.
U.S. vs. CanadaSunday, Feb. 1511:45 a.m.
QuaterfinalsWednesday, Feb. 18 
SemifinalsFriday, Feb. 20 
Bronze Medal GameSaturday, Feb. 211:15 a.m.
Gold Medal GameSaturday, Feb. 2111:45 p.m.
Key Matches (Women)
EventDateTime (ET)
U.S. vs. ChinaSunday, Feb. 86 a.m.
U.S. vs. SwedenMonday, Feb. 92 a.m.
U.S. vs. FinlandWednesday, Feb. 116 a.m.
U.S. vs. CanadaSaturday, Feb. 146 a.m.
Bronze Medal GameTuesday, Feb. 1712 a.m.
Gold Medal GameTuesday, Feb. 174 a.m.

U.S. Outlook: With a roster full of NHL stars and bouyed by its 1996 World Cup title, the U.S. has high hopes for Nagano. With offensive stars such as Brett Hull, Bill Guerin and Keith Tkachuk, defensemen like Chris Chelios and Brian Leetch and the likes of Mike Richter and John Vanbiesbrouck in goal, the U.S. roster is loaded.

Above all, however, the U.S. squad is confident. By the time the Nagano tournament rolls around, it will have been a only 17 months since the Americans beat Team Canada twice in Montreal to claim the World Cup.

Team USA posted a 6-1-0 record in that tournament, facing the best players from Canada, the Czech Republic, Finland, Germany, Russia, Slovakia and Sweden.

The American women also should bring home some hardware, though they aren't given quite the same chances as the men to win gold. As in the men's draw, Canada is the heavy favorite, having beaten the United States in the finals of every major international tournament in the '90s, although Team USA has beaten the Canadians three times in six meetings since October.

Headlining the list of women named to the team are six-time U.S. Women's National Team members Lisa-Brown Miller (Union Lake, Mich.), Cammi Granato (Downer's Grove, Ill.) and Kelly O'Leary (Auburn, Mass.), the only three women who have appeared on every national team since its inception in 1990.

Others to Watch: Canada is the favorite in both the men's and women's tournaments, but the men's draw should be more difficult.

Canada's roster reads like a who's-who of NHL all-stars, and features the likes of forwards Eric Lindros, Paul Kariya, Wayne Gretzky, and goalies Patrick Roy and Martin Brodeur. Team Canada will be out to avenge its loss to the United States in the 1996 World Cup.

Hot on the heels of both the United States and Canada will be the other four automatic second-round qualifiers, squads from Russia, Sweden, Finland and the Czech Republic, all of which sport rosters peppered with NHL all-stars. Among them are Pavel Bure and Valeri Kamensky (Russia); Peter Forsberg and Mikael Renberg (Sweden); Teemu Selanne and Jari Kurri (Finland); and Dominik Hasek and Jaromir Jagr (Czech Republic).

On the women's side, there have been four world championships — 1990, 1992, 1994 and 1997 — and each time Canada, the United States and Finland took the top three spots, respectively. Last year, the United States extended Canada to overtime before falling 4-3 in the gold-medal game.

Looking Back at Lillehammer: The U.S. hockey team, after a rousing six-month preparatory tour against international competition in which it went 37-17-7, had a rough go of it in Norway. The team finished 1-4-3 and in eighth place, and became the first U.S. team to win fewer than two games in the Olympic tournament. The United States has gone four Olympics — since the 1980 "Miracle on Ice" gold — without a medal in hockey, which also is a record. A 6-1 loss to Finland epitomized a frustrating Olympic tournament for the United States, and knocked it out of the hunt for a medal. "We had a great team," said U.S. goalie Garth Snow. "And yet we feel like we never really played our best." Lillehhammer also was a disaster for Russia, which failed to win a medal for the first time since 1956. The economic upheaval that has gripped Russia during the past decade has fueled a talent exodus to the NHL as well as European and minor leagues. Nineteen players from the Unified Team's gold-medal team of 1992 were not in Lillehammer.

The '94 gold-medal game left most who saw it gasping for adjectives. Sweden and Canada played through 60 minutes of regulation and 10 minutes of overtime until Peter Forsberg, in the seventh round of a shoot-out, slid an agonizingly slow backhand shot along the ice and just under Corey Hirsch's glove for a goal. When Paul Kariya couldn't answer — his shot was slapped out of the air by Swedish goalie Tommy Salo — Sweden had won its first Olympic hockey gold, 3-2, and Canada settled for silver for for the second time in the past two Olympic Games.

Medalists (Men)

1920 Canada United States Czechoslovakia
1924 Canada United States Great Britain
1928 Canada Sweden Switzerland
1932 Canada United States Germany
1936 Great Britain Canada United States
1948 Canada Czechoslovakia Switzerland
1952 Canada United States Sweden
1956 USSR United States Canada
1960 United States Canada USSR
1964 USSR Sweden Czechoslovakia
1968 USSR Czechoslovakia Canada
1972 USSR United States Czechoslovakia
1976 USSR Czechoslovakia West Germany
1980 United States USSR Sweden
1984 USSR Czechoslovakia Sweden
1988 USSR Finland Sweden
1992 Unified Team Canada Czechoslovakia
1994 Sweden Canada Finland

Trivia: 1. The United States beat what team to clinch the gold medal in 1980?
2. What country will Eric Lindros be playing for Nagano?
3. Where and when did the United States when its first gold medal in hockey?

© Copyright 1998

Back to the top | Ice Hockey Section

Olympics Front | Sport by Sport | Gallery | History | Nagano | Countries
Yellow Pages