Men’s ice hockey has been a staple of the winter Olympics since 1924. In the early days, the sport was largely dominated by Canada who won six of seven gold medals in the first three decades. During this time, Czechoslovakia, Sweden and the US were also major medal contenders.
In 1956, the Soviet Union entered a team and quickly took over Canada’s role as the lead force in Olympic hockey, winning seven of nine tournaments they competed in. In 1980 the US team upset the heavily favored Soviets and moved on to capture the gold medal. This game is known as the ‘Miracle on Ice’ and is one of the most memorable Olympic moments. The International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) voted the ‘Miracle on Ice’ as the best international hockey story in the last 100 years.
Other teams that have won the gold medal are Great Britain, Sweden and the Czech Republic.
Women’s ice hockey was added to the winter Olympics in 1998. Canada and the US have dominated this event since its inclusion. The US took the gold medal in 1998 and Canada took it in 2002 and 2006. Finland and Sweden have also developed competitive women’s teams and both countries have taken silver and bronze medals in the event.
Prior to 1998, professional players were not allowed to compete in the winter Olympics. After some deliberation, Olympic officials decided to open the competition to all players – professional and amateur. The NHL, on the other hand, was hesitant to allow players to compete because it meant their regular season would come to a halt as players left to compete at the international level. In the end, all parties came to an agreement and NHL players are now allowed to play for their country of citizenship during the winter Olympics.
Originally the tournament was held as a round-robin series of games and ended with a medal round. Teams were awarded medals based on the amount of points they had accumulated during the round. This changed in 1988 when the tournament took on a format similar to the NHL playoffs. 12 men’s teams break up into divisions and play a preliminary and qualifying round. The top eight teams will advance to the playoff round in which the winning team will receive the gold medal. Women’s Olympic hockey is played in the same way, but since the women start with eight teams they skip the qualifying round and go straight to the playoffs.
Olympic Hockey Betting Tips
The Olympics are a big deal for bettors and online sportsbooks. They offer several events for people to bet on and ice hockey is one of the most popular. But before you throw down your money there are a couple of things to keep in mind when betting on Olympic ice hockey. Mainly, the rules of the game are different from NHL games. Olympic ice hockey uses the IIHF rules, which means that
- Usually, the rink is bigger in Olympic hockey. This allows for a faster paced, less physical game. However, the 2010 games will use NHL style rinks (this may be beneficial to some players as they train and play on the smaller rinks).
- The icing call is different. In the NHL, icing is called when a defending player touches the puck before an attacking player. In Olympic hockey, icing is called when the puck crosses the goal line.
- Olympic hockey has stricter penalty rules. Like the NHL, there are minor and double minor penalties in Olympic hockey. Unlike the NHL, players are ejected from the game for more serious infractions such as fighting. These rules may seem minor but they can change the outcome of the game, so be sure that you take them into consideration before putting down your bet.
If you would like to know more about sports betting, check out our explanation of sports betting odds. Or, if you’d like to know more about betting on ice hockey, have a look at our NHL/Stanley Cup or ice hockey pages. Once you’ve done your research, check out one of our recommended sportsbooks to put down a friendly wager on the games.