Winter Olympics 2010 Guide: Ice Hockey
Get the lowdown on one of the Games' most frenetic events so that you can make the best bets and not be left asking, WTP?!
“The thought of a losing effort is something wholly unacceptable and incalculable within this culture, where national pride and hockey skill are (at least once every four years) inseparable entities”.
What is it?
Along with the men's downhill, hockey is perhaps the highlight of the games. Fast, rough and tough, it is football on ice.
Here are the basics: a maximum of six players on the rink at any time, two goals, one puck, loads of fighting and the odd slapshot too. A match consists of three periods of 20 minutes. There are no draws. If the scores are level then 20 minutes of over-time is played. If we still don't have a winner then it 's a shoot-out.
Twelve men's teams and eight ladies sides compete in round-robin tournament. The best-placed sides go forward to the knockout stages.
Ahhh Alan Weekes. You don't get commentators like that anymore. In his era, the plummy BBC man waxed lyrical about the 'Big Red Machine' ie the Russian side that clearly ate babies for breakfast and won the tournament every year bar one between 1964 and 1988. The exception was the 'Miracle on Ice' at Lake Placid in 1980 when US goaltender Jim Craig withstood a deluge of Russian attacks to secure an unlikely gold.
On the back of the Dream Team's success on the basketball court, the NHL made a u-turn in 1995 to let its highly-paid professionals compete. Amusingly, they are yet to win gold.
Who to watch
Canada [2.28], of course. However the day after the squad was announced The Manitoban newspaper wrote: "The thought of a losing effort is something wholly unacceptable and incalculable within this culture, where national pride and hockey skill are (at least once every four years) inseparable entities". No pressure then.
Russia [3.9], Slovakia [55.0], Sweden [8.4]the Czech Republic [13.0] and the United States [13.5] are very much in the mix.
The men's event was in the summer games of 1920 before moving to the first Winter Olympics in 1924. And, who'd believe it, the Brits won in 1936.
Lay Canada because they will buckle. Either that or consider a small wager on Slovakia for the quality of NHL forwards Marian Hossa and Marian Gaborik alone.