Winter Olympics: Ice Hockey
A tournament of veterans
Men's Ice Hockey
It's hard to believe it's been more than 30 years since a bunch of college kids from the United States defeated the Russians and ultimately won the gold in 1980's " Miracle on Ice."
Since that year, the U.S. men's hockey team has fallen on hard times, failing to get the gold in each of the last seven Olympics. The low point for the program perhaps came in Nagano in 1998, when some members of the team trashed their room at the Olympic Village following a loss to the eventual champion, the Czech Republic.
In 1998, the face of Olympic hockey underwent a major change when it was ruled that professionals would be allowed to compete. As a result, we saw each nation's top players competing against each other. On the downside, it virtually eliminated the chance of another "Miracle on Ice."
Leading up to the 2010 Olympic Games, held in Vancouver, Canada, the outlook for the U.S. hadn't approved. Canada and Russia were neck and neck according to IIHF (International Ice Hockey Federation) 2009 world standings. With a home-field advantage, however, Canada's desire to win the 2010 Games was stronger than ever. In fifth place, Team U.S.A. placed faith in its newer, younger players; there were only 3 veteran Olympians on the squad, including Chris Drury and Brian Rafalski, members of the 2002 team that won the silver medal. During the 2010 Olympics, the U.S. team upset the Canadian team in the round-robin phase. The U.S. team beat Finland to advance to the gold medal game. With 27.6 million Americans tuning in, the gold medal game between Canada and the U.S. was the most watched hockey game in the United States since the 1980 Miracle on Ice. Canada beat the U.S. 3—2 in overtime.
However, in the months after the 2010 games, the U.S. team had the worst record in its history, losing all three of its games at the 2010 Ice Hockey World Championship. The multiple losses kept the U.S. from medal contention. At the 2013 Ice Hockey World Championship, Team USA won the Bronze medal raising hopes that they would medal in the 2014 Olympic Games.
Women's Ice Hockey
After a disappointing third-place finish for the U.S. Women's Hockey team in 2006, the United States is back on top of the world rankings, preparing to reinstate their champion status. With all due respect to the other countries competing in the women's hockey event, until 2006 international women's hockey came down to just two teams: Canada and the United States. From 1990 until the 2006 Olympic tournament, the U.S. and Canada had fought over every gold medal in the IIHF world championships and the winter Olympic Games. That all changed at the 2006 Games in Torino, Italy; the U.S. faltered in a semi-final game against Sweden, and Canada once again took the top spot in the end. Sweden earned the silver, while the United States won third place after a winning battle against fourth-place Finland.
In 2010, the U.S. team won the silver medal after, once again, losing to the Canadian team in the gold medal game. No one will be surprised if, at the 2014 Winter Olympics, it comes down to a competition against Canada and the United States.
Competition at the Sochi Games starts on February 8 for the women and February 12 for the men. The gold medal matches will be on February 20 for the women and on February 23 for the men, respectively. The games will be played at the Bolshoy Ice Dome.
More about the 2014 Winter Olympics