The biggest difference between international play and North American play has always been the size of the ice sheet. But in 2010, for the first time ever, the Olympics hockey tournament is being staged on an NHL-sized sheet.
The biggest difference between international play and North American play has always been the size of the ice sheet.
But in 2010, for the first time ever, the Olympics hockey tournament is being staged on an NHL-sized sheet. That’s a smaller surface, which means less room behind the net and more board play and physicality will be likely.
How will the European teams hold up against USA and Canada?
Yan Stastny of the Peoria Rivermen, an AHL team from Peoria, Ill., has a brother, Paul, who plays for Team USA:
“I’m not sure how the Russian defensemen will hold up in the smaller rink. That will define their chances. I really don’t want Canada to win. So I’m rooting for USA, that’s where my heart is.”
Rivermen head coach Rick Wamsley:
“Take time to watch these games; it’s going to be the best hockey. Anytime you get the world’s best players in a tournament for national pride, it’s the game of hockey at its finest.
“Will the NHL-sized rink be an advantage for USA and Canada? Yes and no. I think most of the medal contenders, most of their players are coming from the NHL or have played on North American ice for a long time.
“Now the teams in the bottom part of the draw — those guys are REALLY gonna have some fun. “I think Canada wins the gold in a nail-biter over Russia.”
There are some other differences between Olympic competition and what hockey fans are accustomed to seeing in North America:
In the Olympics, overtime in the group stage will be five minutes of four-on-four play before the contest goes to the shootout. In qualification, quarterfinal and semifinal stages, as well as bronze-medal game, the overtime period will be 10 minutes of sudden-death format. A shootout occurs if game remains tied. In the gold-medal game, the overtime will be 20 minutes, followed by a shootout if game is still tied.
A three-man roster is named after the conclusion of overtime. In international play, any player can go after the three shooters have gone, including the same player on a repeated basis. In the NHL, all 18 shooters must have a shootout attempt before shooters can be repeated. In the Olympics, a coin toss is used to decide the order in which teams will shoot. In the AHL, the home team chooses which side shoots first, and five shooters are selected. Shootouts are used in the NHL and AHL only in regular-season play. It’s full 20-minute sudden-death OT come playoff time.
Olympic teams can dress 20 skaters and two goaltenders. NHL teams can dress 18 skaters and two goaltenders.
In the NHL and AHL, when goaltenders are behind the goal line, they can only handle the puck if within a trapezoid marked on the ice. In international play, goaltenders can handle the puck anywhere.
Masks: USA goaltender Ryan Miller ran into trouble at the Games when IOC officials questioned the phrases on his mask, “Miller Time” and “Matt Man.” North American goaltenders have traditionally decorated their masks with an array of expensive art work. But IOC rule No. 51 prohibits “advertising, demonstrations and propaganda.”
Crease violations: In the NHL and AHL, players are allowed to stand in the goal crease as long as they don’t interfere with the goaltender. But in international play, referees will whistle play dead and declare a neutral zone faceoff if an attacking player is standing in the crease.
If an NHL or AHL player shoots the puck down ice for an icing infraction, an opposing player must touch the puck first for the infraction to be whistled. But the Olympics include a no-touch icing rule. As soon as the puck crosses the end line down ice, play is whistled dead.
DROP THE GLOVES
NHL and AHL players — all North American pro leagues, for that matter — allow fighting and assess a five-minute penalty to combatants. Players who fight in the Olympics receive a match penalty (subject to suspension) and are ejected from the game immediately.
Helmets are mandatory in Olympic competition, and must remain on whenever a player is on the ice. If a player loses his helmet, he must immediately leave the playing surface or face discipline. In the North American game, players who lose their helmet can continue on until a whistle stops play.
In the NHL, AHL and other North American pro leagues, when a penalty shot is awarded, it must be taken by the player who was fouled. In the Olympics, any player can be selected to take that shot.
2010 OLYMPIC HOCKEY
Canada Hockey Place. Home of the NHL’s Vancouver Canucks (the venue’s name is General Motors Place, but corporate branding has been suspended for the Olympics), the ice sheet is 200 feet long by 85 feet wide, with the goal line about 11 feet from the endboards. Standard international sheet size: 210-by-98, with goal lines 13 feet from end boards.
Compiled by Dave Eminian of the Peoria (Ill.) Journal Star