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Posted by r2d2 04/11/2009 @ 07:08

Tags : hockey, sports, nhl, beijing 2008, olympics

News headlines
Hawks playoff run sparks hockey interest - Naperville Sun
By JASON DUARTE For The Sun With the recent success of the Chicago Blackhawks heading to the conference finals, it seems as though the entire sport of hockey, at least around Naperville, is growing in popularity. "None of their games used to be on TV,"...
Coyotes fans have passion, lack numbers - East Valley Tribune
It takes him 70 minutes to get cross town — he leaves at 5 pm and parks his car at about 6:10 pm — but he spends the gas money and fights traffic and gets home late because he loves hockey. He's had Coyotes season tickets for four years and the thought...
Inside Hockey: Western Conference preview -
by Brad Kurtzberg, Inside Hockey A pair of Original Six teams will meet in the Western Conference finals as the defending Stanley Cup champion Red Wings take on the young and hungry Blackhawks, who reached the conference finals this season for the...
Litke lands hockey job in Janesville - USA Today
BISMARCK, ND (AP) — Dane Litke has been hired as the first head coach of the new North American Hockey League team in Janesville, Wis. Litke is a former University of North Dakota standout and a former Bismarck Bobcats coach....
South Korea beats Pakistan to win Asia Cup field hockey tournament - The Canadian Press
"It is great to win here without some of my best players," said Cho, in his first international assignment as head coach for the Korea hockey team. "We came to Kuantan to win and my players did it. We were better than the rest because of our tactical...
Memorial Cup odds and ends - Winnipeg Sun
The glass in the Rimouski Colisee end is much shorter than typical Canadian Hockey League rinks. It's three feet less than the usual eight feet in the end zones and two feet fewer than the six feet along the side boards. After much pre-tournament...
Canada takes bronze at world sledge hockey championship -
OSTRAVA, Czech Republic (CP) -- There wasn't much consolation for Canada after winning bronze at the IPC World Sledge Hockey Championship. Todd Nicholson and Graeme Murray each had a goal and Paul Rosen stopped all 10 shots he faced Saturday as Canada...
Can Kevin Smith make an Oscar-worthy hockey movie? - Yahoo! Sports
By Greg Wyshynski Lately, Smith had an essay published by TIME Magazine in support of Jim Balsillie's bid for the Phoenix Coyotes, writing that "hockey isn't woven into the fabric of the American quilt the way it is woven into the Canadian toque....
Inside Hockey: Little things add up for Wings -
by Brian Kennedy, Inside Hockey Why the Red Wings won: Neither the Wings or Ducks dominated play consistently, though Detroit's 40-to-27 shot advantage might suggest otherwise. The Wings had the Ducks down by two goals twice and let them come back to...
Hockey playoff tickets restored; now it's up to the Blackhawks - Chicago Tribune
Roberts, a lifelong hockey fan, said the Ticketmaster representative should have stopped selling him tickets when he reached the maximum. Revoking the tickets days after the sale, he said, seemed unfair. "I'm sure there are people with worse problems...


Field hockey game at Melbourne University.

Hockey is any of a family of sports in which two teams play against each other by trying to maneuver a ball, or a hard, round, rubber or heavy plastic disc called a puck, into the opponent's net or goal, using a hockey stick.

Field hockey is played on gravel, natural grass, sand-based or water-based artificial turf, with a small, hard ball. The game is popular among both males and females in many parts of the world, particularly in Europe, Asia, Australia, and South Africa. In most countries, the game is played between single-sex sides, although they can be mixed-sex.

The governing body is the 116-member International Hockey Federation (FIH). Men's Field hockey has been played at each summer Olympic Games since 1908 (except 1912 and 1924), while Women's Field Hockey has been played each summer Olympic Games since 1980.

Modern field hockey sticks are J-shaped and constructed of a composite of wood, glass fibre or carbon fibre (sometimes both) and have a curved hook at the playing end, a flat surface on the playing side and curved surface on the rear side. While current field hockey appeared in the mid-18th century in England, primarily in schools, it was not until the first half of the 19th century that it became firmly established. The first club was created in 1849 at Blackheath in south-east London. Field hockey is the national sport of India and Pakistan.

Ice hockey is played on a large flat area of ice, using a three inch (76.2 mm) diameter vulcanized rubber disc called a puck. This puck is often frozen before high-level games to decrease the amount of bouncing and friction on the ice. The game is contested between two teams of skaters. The game is played all over North America, Europe and in many other countries around the world to varying extent. It is the most popular sport in Canada, Finland, the Czech Republic, and in Sweden.

The governing body is the 64-member International Ice Hockey Federation, (IIHF). Men's ice hockey has been played at the Winter Olympics since 1924, and was in the 1920 Summer Olympics. Women's ice hockey was added to the Winter Olympics in 1998. North America's National Hockey League (NHL) is the strongest professional ice hockey league, drawing top ice hockey players from around the globe. The NHL rules are slightly different from those used in Olympic ice hockey: the periods are 20 minutes long, counting downwards. There are three periods.

Ice hockey sticks are long L-shaped sticks made of wood, graphite, or composites with a blade at the bottom that can lie flat on the playing surface when the stick is held upright and can curve either way, legally, as to help a left- or right-handed player gain an advantage.

There are early representations and reports of ice hockey-type games being played on ice in the Netherlands, and reports from Canada from the beginning of the nineteenth century, but the modern game was initially organized by students at McGill University, Montreal in 1875 who, by two years later, codified the first set of ice hockey rules and organized the first teams.

Ice hockey is played at a number of levels, by all ages.

Inline hockey is a variation of roller hockey very similar to ice hockey, from which it is derived. Inline hockey is played by two teams, consisting of four skaters and one goalie, on a dry rink divided into two halves by a center line, with one net at each end of the rink. The game is played in three 15-minute periods with a variation of the ice hockey off-side rule. Icings are also called, but are usually referred to as illegal clearing. For rink dimensions and an overview of the rules of the game, see IIHF Inline Rules (official rules). Some leagues and competitions do not follow the IIHF regulations, in particular USA Inline and Canada Inline.

Roller hockey (quad) is the overarching name for a roller sport that has existed since long before inline skates were invented. Roller hockey has been played in sixty countries worldwide and so has many names worldwide. The sport is also known as quad hockey, hóquei em patins, international style ball hockey, rink hockey and hardball hockey. Roller Hockey was a demonstration roller sport at the 1992 Barcelona Summer Olympics.

Another form of popular hockey is Street hockey, sometimes known as road hockey. This is usually played with the same rules as ice hockey, or roller hockey, except it is on the street. Most of the time, a ball is used instead of a puck, because a puck generates too much friction when handled on an asphalt or cement surface and does not slide. Street hockey is played year round.

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Ice hockey at the Olympic Games

A set of silver, gold and bronze medals from the 1998 Winter Olympics on display at the Hockey Hall of Fame.

Ice hockey tournaments have been staged at the Olympic Games since 1920. The men's tournament was introduced at the 1920 Summer Olympics, and added to the Winter Olympic Games in 1924. The Olympic Games were originally intended for amateur athletes, so the players of the National Hockey League (NHL) and other professional leagues were not allowed to play. Canada dominated the first three decades, winning six of seven gold medals. Czechoslovakia, Sweden and the United States were also competitive during this period and won multiple medals. Between 1920 and 1968, the Olympic hockey tournament was also counted as the Ice Hockey World Championship for that year. From 1924 to 1988, the typical tournament started with a round-robin series of games and ended with the medal round. Medals were awarded based on points accumulated during that round.

The Soviet Union first participated in 1956 and overtook Canada as the dominant international team, winning seven of the nine tournaments in which they participated. At the 1980 Winter Olympics, the American team upset the Soviet Union in the "Miracle on Ice" and went on to win the gold medal. Other nations to win gold include Great Britain in 1936, Sweden in 1994 and 2006 and the Czech Republic in 1998. Many of Canada's top players were NHL professionals, so the Canadian Amateur Hockey Association (CAHA) pushed for the ability to use professional and amateur players. After several debates about the definition of what made a player professional, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) voted to allow all athletes to compete in Olympic Games held after 1988. The NHL was initially reluctant to allow its players to compete because the Olympics are held in the middle of the NHL season, and the league would have to halt play if many of its players participated. However, an agreement was reached and NHL players were allowed to compete starting in 1998. The format of the tournament was adjusted to accommodate the NHL schedule, its players started playing the second week and the top six teams—Canada, the Czech Republic, Finland, Russia, Sweden and the United States—were given byes to the final round. This format was controversial because it affected the chances of teams like Slovakia and Germany, who fielded several NHL players. The tournament format was changed again in 2006; every team played five preliminary games with the full use of NHL players.

In July 1992, the IOC voted to approve women's hockey as an Olympic event; it was first held at the 1998 Winter Olympics in Nagano. The Nagano Organizing Committee was initially reluctant to include the event because of the additional costs of staging the tournament, but an agreement was reached that limited the size to six teams, and no additional facilities would be built. The Canadian and American teams have both dominated the event, typically losing only to each other. The United States won the first tournament in 1998, while Canada won in 2002 and 2006.

Ice hockey will be part of the programme of the 2010 Winter Olympics. In the men's tournament, 12 teams will be split into divisions and play a preliminary and qualifying round, then the top eight teams play in the playoff medal round and the winning team receives the gold medal. The women's tournament will use a similar format, except with 8 teams and no qualifying round. The games of the tournament follows the rules of the International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF). The current IIHF rules differ slightly from the rules used in the NHL. The tournament follows the World Anti-Doping Agency's (WADA) rules on performance enhancing drugs. The IIHF maintains a "Registered Testing Pool"; a list of top players who are subjected to random in-competition and out-of-competition drug tests. Several players have tested positive for banned substances, dating back to the 1972 Winter Olympics.

The first Olympic ice hockey tournament took place at the 1920 Summer Olympics in Antwerp, Belgium. At the time, organised international ice hockey was still relatively new. The International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF), the sport's governing body, was created on May 15, 1908 under the name Ligue Internationale de Hockey sur Glace (LHG). At the 1914 Olympic Congress in Paris, ice hockey (along with several other winter sports) was added to the list of optional Olympic sports. The decision to include ice hockey in the programme of the 1920 Summer Olympics was made in January, three months before the start of the Games. There were several occurances that led to the sport's inclusion in the programme. The managers of Antwerp's Palais de Glace stadium had refused to allow the building to be used for figure skating unless ice hockey was included and five European nations had committed to participating in the tournament. The IIHF considers the 1920 tournament to be the first Ice Hockey World Championship. Subsequently, the two events occurred concurrently, and every Olympic tournament until 1968 is counted as the World Championship. The first World Championship that was held as an individual event was in 1930. The Olympic Games were originally intended for amateur athletes, so the players of the National Hockey League (NHL) and other professional leagues were not allowed to play.

The first Winter Olympics were held in 1924 in Chamonix, France. Chapter 1, article 6 of the 2007 edition of the Olympic Charter defines Winter sports as "sports which are practised on snow or ice." Ice hockey and figure skating were permanently integrated in the Winter Olympics program as of the first edition. The IOC made the Winter Games a permanent fixture in the Olympics and there were held the same year as the Summer Games until 1992. Following that, further Winter Games have been held on the third year of each Olympiad.

The men's tournament was first held at the 1920 Summer Olympics and was organised by a committee that included future IIHF president Paul Loicq. The tournament used the "Bergvall System," in which three rounds were played. The first round was an elimination tournament which determined the gold medal winner. The second round consisted of the teams that were defeated by the gold medal winner; the winner of that round was awarded the silver medal. The final round was played between teams that had lost to the gold or silver medal winners; the winner of that round the bronze medal. The system was criticised, especially in Sweden, because the Swedish team had to play six games (winning three) while the bronze medal winning Czech team only had to play three (winning one). Erik Bergvall, creator of the system, stated that it was used incorrectly and that a tournament of all of the losing teams from the first round should have played to determine which teams would also play for the silver medal. Because of these criticisms, the "Bergvall System" was not used again for ice hockey after the 1920 games.

The tournament was played from April 23 to April 29. Seven teams participated: Canada, Czechoslovakia, the United States, Switzerland, Sweden, France and Belgium. Canada chose to send the Allan Cup-winning Winnipeg Falcons. The Americans initially held a tournament to determine their representative but in the end decided to send an all-star team of players from Boston, Pittsburgh and Saint Paul, Minnesota. The team included four Canadian-born players. The Swedish team consisted mostly of bandy players, many of whom had only started playing hockey in preparation for the tournament. Canada won all three games in the first round and won gold, lastly defeating Sweden and outscoring opponents 27–1. In two subsequent rounds, the United States and Czechoslovakia won the silver and bronze medals respectively.

In 1924, the tournament was played in a round-robin format. It consisted of a preliminary round and a medal round. The medals were awarded based on win-loss records during the medal round. The same format was used until 1992, although there were small variations such as in the number of teams and games played. The Canadian Toronto Granites became one of the dominant hockey teams in Olympic history, outscoring opponents 110–3, with Harry Watson scoring 36 goals.

Eleven teams participated in the 1928 Winter Olympics in St. Moritz, Switzerland. The Canadian team was given a bye to the medal round and won all of their games by a combined score of 38–0. The Swedish and Swiss teams won their first medals – silver and bronze, respectively – and a German team participated for the first time, finishing ninth. At the 1932 Winter Olympics, Canada won a tournament that consisted of four teams that played each other twice.

Two days before the 1936 Winter Olympics in Germany, Canadian officials protested that two players on the British team—James Foster and Alex Archer—had played in Canada but transferred without permission to play for clubs in the English National League. The IIHF agreed with Canada, but Great Britain threatened to withdraw if the two could not compete, and Canada withdrew the protest before the games. The tournament consisted of four groups and a total of fifteen teams. Great Britain became the first non-Canadian team to win gold, with Canada winning silver. Germany won bronze, the nation's first medal in the sport. World War II forced the cancellation of the 1940 and 1944 Winter Olympics.

During the run-up to the 1948 Winter Olympics in St. Moritz, Switzerland, a conflict broke out between the two American hockey bodies: the American Hockey Association (AHA) and the Amateur Athletic Union (AAU). The AAU, which had run amateur hockey in the United States since 1930, was expelled by the IIHF in 1947 when they refused to support the AHA's team. The AAU stated that the AHA players were "openly paid salaries" and at the time, the Olympics were strictly for amateur players. The Swiss Olympic Organizing Committee (SOOC) had accepted the AHA's application and Avery Brundage of the United States Olympic Committee (USOC) threatened to withdraw the entire American team if the AHA participated in the Olympics. The IIHF countered by threatening to withdraw hockey if the AHA were banned. The IOC suggested that both American teams be banned but the SOOC rejected this proposal. The IOC decided to switch hockey to an unofficial event but a compromise was reached that the AHA team would be allowed to compete but would not be considered official and not be able to win a medal. By the end of the tournament, the AHA team finished fourth in the standings but was disqualified. Both Czechoslovakia and Canada won seven games and tied when they played each other. The gold medal winner was determined by goal difference: Canada won the gold because they had an average of 13.8 compared to Czechoslovakia's average of 4.3.

Czechoslovakia's team was quickly improving, they had won the 1947 World Championships, although a Canadian team had not participated in the event. In 1949, they became the third nation to win a World Championship tournament that Canada participated in. At the 1952 Winter Olympics in Oslo, Norway, the gold medal was won by Canada's team for the second consecutive year. It would be the last time that a Canadian team would win a gold medal in hockey for 50 years. 1952 was also the first time that a team from Finland competed.

The Soviet Union competed in its first World Championship in 1954. They defeated Canada 7–2 in the final game of the tournament and won the gold medal. At the 1956 Winter Olympics in Cortina d'Ampezzo, Italy, the Soviet team went undefeated and won their first gold medal. Canada's team lost to both the Soviets and the United States in the medal round and won the bronze. The 1960 Winter Olympics in Squaw Valley, California saw the first, and to date only, team from Australia compete in the tournament. Canada, the Soviet Union, Czechoslovakia and Sweden were the top four teams heading into the Games. All four were defeated by the American team, which won all seven games en route to their first Olympic gold medal.

At the 1964 Winter Olympics in Innsbruck, Austria, the Soviet team won all seven of their games and the gold medal. Canada finished the tournament with five wins and two losses, putting the team in a three-way tie for second place with Sweden and Czechoslovakia. Prior to 1964, the tie-breaking procedure was based on goal difference from games against teams in the medal round and under that system, Canada would have placed third ahead of the Czechs. The procedure had been changed to count all games and that meant the Canadians finished fourth. However, at the time the Olympics counted as the World Championships and under their rules, Canada should have won a bronze.

Soviet domination continued at the 1968 Winter Olympics held in Grenoble, France as they won their third gold medal. It was the last time that the Olympics were also counted as the World Championships. In 1970, Canada withdrew from international ice hockey competition following a dispute over whether they could use professional players and did not participate in the 1972 or 1976 Winter Olympics. The Swedish, East German and Norwegian teams also did not participate in the 1976 tournament.

Led by goaltender Vladislav Tretiak and forwards Valery Kharlamov, Alexander Yakushev, Vladimir Petrov and Boris Mikhailov, the Soviet team won gold at both the 1972 Games in Sapporo, Japan and 1976 Winter Olympics in Innsbruck, Austria. In 1971, the United States finished last at the World Championships and was relegated to Pool B. However, the team managed to qualify for the 1972 Olympics and won a silver, making them the first Pool B team to win an Olympic medal. Czechoslovakia won the bronze medal in 1972. In 1976, the Czechs won the silver and West Germany won bronze.

The 1980 Winter Olympics returned to Lake Placid, New York. Twelve teams participated in the ice hockey tournament, including Canada for the first time since 1968. The Soviet Union entered the Olympic tournament as heavy favourites, and were considered natural rivals with the American team due to the Cold War. The Americans, coached by Herb Brooks and consisting mainly of college students, tied Sweden and scored an upset win over Czechoslovakia in the preliminary round. They finished with four wins and a tie and advanced to the medal round which also consisted of Sweden, Finland and the Soviet Union.

A common myth is that the Americans won gold the night they beat the Soviets. However, the medals were awarded based on points accumulated against teams that made the medal round. The Americans did not win the gold until February 24 when they defeated Finland 4–2 and finished the tournament undefeated. The Soviets defeated Sweden and won the silver. In 2008, the IIHF picked the "Miracle on Ice" as the number-one international hockey story of the past one hundred years.

At the 1984 Winter Olympics in Sarajevo, Yugoslavia, the Soviet Union won their sixth gold medal. The 1988 Winter Olympics were held in Calgary, Alberta, Canada where the Soviet team captured their seventh and final gold medal. Their last Olympic game was a loss to Finland. The Finnish team was not considered a serious medal contender – they had competed in the world championships since 1939 and had not won a single medal. However, they upset the Soviets 3–2 and won silver. The gold medal winner was decided before the final games were played. Because of this and several other similar occurrences, the IIHF decided to change the tournament format. During a congress in 1990, the IIHF introduced a playoff system. The new system was used at the 1992 Winter Olympics in Albertville, France. Preliminary round-robin games were held and were followed by an eight-team "cup-system" style medal round which culminated in a gold medal game.

Before 1989, players that lived in the Soviet Union, Czechoslovakia, and other nations behind the Iron Curtain were not allowed to leave and play in the NHL. Soviet officials agreed to allow players to leave following the 1989 World Championships. Many of the Soviet Union's top players left to play in the NHL, including the entire "Green Unit"–Igor Larionov, Viacheslav Fetisov, Vladimir Krutov, Sergei Makarov and Alexei Kasatonov. The Soviet Union dissolved in December 1991. Nine former Soviet states became part of the IIHF and started competing in international competitions, including Belarus, Kazakhstan, Latvia and Ukraine. Russia was named the replacement for the Soviet Union. At the 1992 Olympics, Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Russia, Ukraine and Uzbekistan competed as one entity, known as the Unified Team. In the final, the Unified Team defeated Canada to win gold while Czechoslovakia won the bronze.

Czechoslovakia split into the Czech Republic and Slovakia in January 1993. The IIHF recognized the Czech Republic as the successor to Czechoslovakia, alowing the team to retain its position in the top division, while Slovakia started in the lowest division (Pool C) in 1994 and was forced to work its way up. Both nations competed in the tournament at the 1994 Winter Olympics, as did Russia. Slovakia and Finland finished the preliminary round undefeated. Slovakia lost to Russia in their medal round quarterfinal and Russia went on to lose to Finland in the bronze medal game. The gold medal game was between Sweden and Canada and the two teams finished regulation and overtime play with a 2–2 tie. In the resulting shootout, the first ever in Olympic competition, Peter Forsberg was the final shooter for Sweden. He scored one of the most famous goals in Olympic history by faking a forehand shot, then sliding a one-handed backhand shot past goaltender Corey Hirsch. Canada's final shooter was unable to score and Sweden won the game and its first gold.

The same format was used at the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City, United States. The NHL's Olympic break did not start until the second week of the Games. Because the Olympics were in the United States, where the majority of NHL teams are located, teams participating in the preliminary tournament were allowed to use NHL players who were not obligated to play with their NHL club. Slovakia was particularly affected, and the team failed to advance to the final round. Three months later, Slovakia won gold at the 2002 World Championships. Finnish centre Raimo Helminen became the first ice hockey player to compete in six tournaments. In the quarterfinals, Belarus defeated Sweden in one of the biggest upsets since the "Miracle on Ice." The team advanced to the bronze medal game, but lost to Russia. The Canadian team rebounded from a disappointing first round and defeated the American team in the gold medal game. During the final, the legend of the lucky loonie was born when Canadian icemaker Trent Evans buried a one dollar coin (Loonie) under centre ice and both the Canadian men's and women's teams won gold.

At the 99th IOC Session in July 1992, the IOC voted to approve women's hockey as an Olympic event to first be held at the 1998 Winter Olympics. The decision needed to be approved by the Nagano Winter Olympic Organizing Committee (NWOOC), which was initially reluctant to include the event because of the additional costs of staging the tournament. The Japanese women's national team had also failed to make that year's World Championships. In November 1992, the NWOOC and IOC Coordination Committee reached an agreement to include a women's ice hockey tournament in the programme in 1998. Part of the agreement was that the tournament would be limited to six teams, and no additional facilities would be built. The Canadian Amateur Hockey Association agreed to help build the Japanese team. The IOC had agreed that if the NWOOC had not approved the event, it would be held at the 2002 Winter Olympics. The first tournament was similar to the men's: preliminary round-robin games followed by a medal round playoff.

Before 1998, women's hockey had been dominated by Canada. Canadian teams had won every World Championship up to that point; however, by 1997, the American team had improved and was evenly matched with Canada. In thirteen games played between the two teams in 1997, Canada won seven and the United States won six. The 1998 Olympic tournament included teams from Finland, Sweden, China and host Japan. Canada and the United States dominated the round-robin portion and in their head-to-head match up, the United States overcame a 4–1 deficit to win 7–4. The two teams met in the gold medal final, which the United States won 3–1 to become the third American ice hockey team to win the Olympic gold.

For the 2002 Winter Olympics, the number of teams allowed was increased to eight and Russia, Germany and Kazakhstan qualified for the first time. The Canadian and American teams went undefeated in the first round and semi-finals, setting up a gold medal rematch which the Canadian team won 3–2. Following the game, members of the Canadian team accused the Americans of stomping on a Canadian flag in their dressing room, although an investigation later proved the rumor to be false. The Swedish team won the bronze medal over Finland, the nation's first ever in women's ice hockey.

In 2006, Italy and Switzerland participated for the first time. The Italian team, at the time ranked seventeenth in the world, had qualified because Italy was the host nation. They were outscored 32–1 in three games and IIHF president René Fasel declared his intention to try to make future tournaments more competitive and not allow host nations to automatically qualify. The Canadian team started the tournament by outscoring opponents 36–1 over three games. American defenceman Angela Ruggiero accused the team of running up the score and warned that the event's Olympic status could be called into question due to a perceived lack of competitive teams. In response, René Fasel stated that other women's teams were improving and that there was similar dominance in the early years of the men's tournment but the sport continued to grow. He added, "I promise you that it won't take the women 64 years to win," in reference to the Swedish men's team being unable to defeat Canada in Olympic play until 1984 (the Swedish women's team later defeated Canada for the first time at the 2008 4 Nations Cup).

In their February 17 semi-final game, the American team was upset by Sweden, marking the first time that they had lost to an opponent other than Canada. The upset drew comparisons to the "Miracle on Ice" from 1980. In the medal games, Canada defeated Sweden to claim their second consecutive gold medal whilst the Americans beat Finland to win the bronze.

Both the men's and women's tournament will be held at the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver, Canada and the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia. The games of the 2010 tournament will be held at the UBC Winter Sports Centre and General Motors Place, which is to be renamed Canada Hockey Place during the event because corporate sponsorship is not allowed for an Olympic venue.

Twelve teams have qualified for the men's event and will be split into three groups of four teams. The NHL break will begin after February 14 and the tournament will start on February 16. At the NHL's request, the number of preliminary games that will be played was lowered to three. Following the completion of the preliminary round, all teams will be ranked 1 through 12 based on points. The top four ranked teams will receive byes to the quarterfinals, with the remaining eight teams playing for the remaining four quarterfinal positions. Following that, the final eight teams will compete in a playoff to determine the gold medalist. It will mark the first time since NHL players were allowed to compete that the Olympics will be held in a city with a NHL team. For the first time, Olympic games will be played on a narrower, NHL-sized ice rink, measuring 61x26 metres (200x85  feet), instead of the international size of 61x30 metres (200x98.5 feet). This change is expected to save $10 million (CAD) in construction costs and allow more spectators to attend games. Each team is allowed to have between 15 and 20 skaters (forwards and Defencemen) and two or three goaltenders, all of whom must be citizens of the team they play for.

For the women's tournament, eight teams have qualified, including Slovakia for the first time. They will be split into two divisions of four teams and each team will play three preliminary games. Following the completion of the preliminary round, the top two teams from each division will advance to the medal round and compete in a playoff to determine the gold medalist. The other four will play classification games. Each team is allowed to have between 15 and 18 skaters (forwards and defencemen) and two goaltenders.

Since 1976, 12 teams have participated in the men's tournament, except in 1998 and 2002 when the number was raised to 14. The number of teams has been as high as 16 (in 1964) and as low as 4 (in 1932). After the NHL allowed its players to compete at the 1998 Winter Olympics, the "Big Six" teams (Canada, the Czech Republic, Finland, Russia, Sweden and the United States) were given automatic qualification and byes to the second round. The number of teams was increased to 14 so that there would be eight teams and a round-robin tournament could be played. A similar system was used in 2002. For the following tournament, the number of teams was lowered to 12 so that all teams would have to play less games. Qualification for the the men's tournament at the 2010 Winter Olympics was structured around the 2008 IIHF World Ranking. Twelve spots were made available for teams. The top nine teams in the World Ranking after the 2008 Men's World Ice Hockey Championships received automatic berths into the Ice Hockey event. Teams ranked 10th through 30th had an opportunity to qualify for the event. Teams ranked 19th through 30th played in a first qualification round in November 2008, where the top three teams from the round advance to the second qualification round. Teams ranked 10th through 18th joined the three top teams from the first qualifying round to play in a second qualification round. The top three teams from the second qualifying round advanced to the Olympic tournament.

The women's tournament uses a similar qualification format. The top six teams in the IIHF Women's World Ranking after the 2008 Women's World Ice Hockey Championships received automatic berths into the Ice Hockey event. Lower ranked teams had an opportunity to qualify for the event. Teams ranked 13th and below were divided into two groups where they played in a first qualification round in September 2008. The two group winners from the round advanced to the second qualification round, where the teams ranked seventh through twelfth joined them.

If a player who has never played in an IIHF competition changes their citizenship, they must participate in national competitions in their new country for at least two consecutive years and have an international transfer card (ITC). If a player who has previously played in an IIHF tournament wishes to change their national team, they must have played in their new country for four years. A player can only do this once. The original IOC rules stated that an athlete that had already played for one nation could not later change nations under any circumstances.

Pierre de Coubertin, founder of the IOC, was influenced by the ethos of the aristocracy as exemplified in the English public schools. The public schools subscribed to the belief that sport formed an important part of education and there was a prevailing concept of fairness, in which practicing or training was considered tantamount to cheating. Those who practiced a sport professionally were considered to have an unfair advantage over those who practiced it merely as a hobby. As class structure evolved through the 20th century, the definition of the amateur athlete as an aristocratic gentleman became outdated. The advent of the state-sponsored "full-time amateur athlete" of the Eastern Bloc countries further eroded the ideology of the pure amateur, as it put the self-financed amateurs of the Western countries at a disadvantage. Nevertheless, the IOC held to the traditional rules regarding amateurism. The exclusion of professionals caused several controversies throughout the history of the modern Olympics.

The Soviet Union entered teams of athletes who were all nominally students, soldiers, or working in a profession, but many of whom were in reality paid by the state to train on a full time basis. Because of the Soviet team's full-time athletes and the constant improvement of other European teams, the Canadian Amateur Hockey Association (CAHA) felt their amateur players could no longer be competitive. They pushed for the ability to use players from professional leagues but met opposition from the IIHF and IOC. Avery Brundage, president of the IOC from 1952 to 1972, was opposed to the idea of amateur and professional players competing together. At the IIHF Congress in 1969, the IIHF decided to allow Canada to use nine non-NHL professional hockey players at the 1970 World Championships to be played in Montreal and Winnipeg, Canada. However, the decision was reversed in January 1970 after Brundage said that ice hockey's status as an Olympic sport would be in jeopardy if the change was made. In response, Canada withdrew from international ice hockey competition and Canadian Minister of Health and Welfare John Munro stated that they would not return until after "open competition" was instituted. Günther Sabetzki became president of the IIHF in 1975 and helped to resolve the dispute with the CAHA. In 1976, the IIHF agreed to allow "open competition" between all players in the World Championships, and moved the competition to later in the season so players not involved in the NHL playoffs could participate. However, NHL players were still not allowed to play in the Olympics, because of both the unwillingness of the NHL to take a break mid-season and the IOC's strict amateur-only policy. The first open World Championship was held in 1977 in Vienna, Austria and saw Canada return with a team largely consisting of active NHL players.

Prior to the 1984 Winter Olympics, there was a dispute over what made a player a professional. Four players on Canada's team had signed NHL contracts but played less than ten games in the league and Canadian officials said that this made them eligible. The United States Olympic Committee and IOC maintained that any player contracted with a NHL team was a professional and not eligible to play. Canadian hockey official Alan Eagleson stated that the rule was only applied to North American leagues and that professionally contracted players in European leagues were still considered amateur. Murray Costello of the CAHA suggested that a Canadian withdrawal was possible. In 1986, the IOC voted to allow all athletes to compete in Olympic Games starting with 1988, but left it to the individual sport federations to decide if they wanted to allow professionals.

It has not yet been decided if the NHL will participate in the 2014 Winter Olympics in Russia. A deal would have to negotiated between the NHL and NHL Players' Association (NHLPA) in the next Collective Bargaining Agreement. The NHL management is hesitant to committ to the tournament; Gary Bettman believes the Olympic break is a "strain on the players, on the schedule and on fans," adding that "the benefits we get tend to be greater when the Olympics are in North America than when they're in distant time zones." The Globe and Mail columnist David Shoalts wrote that "Many NHL owners are also not happy about interrupting the NHL season for the Olympics. They do not feel the league receives enough marketing impact for the break in the schedule and for risking injuries to its players." IIHF president René Fasel wants the NHL participate and vowed that he will "will work day and night to have in Sochi". According to NHLPA executive director Paul Kelly, the players want to return to the Olympics and will fight to include the ability in the next agreement. Kelly also believes that the NHL's strained relationship with the Ice Hockey Federation of Russia and the Kontinental Hockey League (KHL) could effect participation. In a 2009 interview, KHL president Alexander Medvedev claimed that the unwillingness of NHL officials to immediately committ to the Sochi Games was "an instrument of pressure" to force a a transfer agreement between the two leagues.

At the first tournament in 1920, there were many differences from the modern game: games were played outdoors on natural ice, forward passes were not allowed, the rink was 56x18 metres (165x58.5 feet) because the rink was meant for figure skating and two twenty minute periods were played. Each side had seven players on the ice, the extra position being the rover. Following the tournament, the IIHF held a congress and decided to adopt the "Canadian rules" – six men per side and three periods of play.

The tournaments follow the rules used by the IIHF. At an IIHF congress in 1969, officials voted to allow body-checking in all three zones in a rink similar to the NHL. Prior to that, body-checking was only allowed in the defending zone in international hockey. Several other rule changes were implemented in the early 1970s: players were required to wear helmets starting in 1970 and goaltender masks became mandatory in 1972. In 1992, the IIHF switched to using a playoff system to determine medalists and decided that tie games in the medal round would be decided in a shootout. In 1998, the IIHF passed a rule that would allow two-line passes. Prior to that, the neutral zone trap had slowed the game down and reduced scoring.

The current IIHF rules differ slightly from the rules used in the NHL. One difference between NHL and IIHF rules is standard rink dimensions: the NHL rink is narrower, measuring 61x26 metres (200x85 feet), instead of the international size of 61x30 metres (200x98.5 feet) The larger international size allows for a faster and less physical style of play. Another rule difference between the NHL and the IIHF rules concerns how icings are called. In the NHL, a linesman stops play due to icing if a defending player (other than the goaltender) touches the puck before an attacking player is able to, in contrast to the IIHF rules where play is stopped the moment the puck crosses the goal line. The NHL and IIHF differ also in penalty rules. The NHL, in addition to the minor and double minor penalties called in IIHF games, calls major penalties which are more dangerous infractions of the rules, such as fighting, and have a duration of five minutes. This is in contrast to the IIHF rule, in which players who fight are ejected from the game. Beginning with the 2005–06 season, the NHL instituted several new rules. Some of them were already used by the IIHF, such as the shootout and the two-line pass. Others which were not picked up by the IIHF, such as requiring smaller goaltender equipment and the addition of the goaltender trapezoid to the rink. However, the IIHF did agree to follow the NHL's league's zero-tolerance policy on obstruction and required referees to call more hooking, holding and interference penalties.

The IIHF follows the World Anti-Doping Agency's (WADA) rules on performance enhancing drugs. The IIHF maintains a "Registered Testing Pool"; a list of top players who are subjected to random in-competition and out-of-competition drug tests. Per the WADA, a positive in-competition test results in a disqualification of the player and a suspension that varies based on the number of offences. When a player tests positive, the rest of the team is subjected to testing and another positive test can result in a disqualification of the entire team. In 2001, the United States Olympic Committee (USOC) pushed for all American NHLers who were potential Olympians to be subject to random drug tests. The USOC requires all Olympic-bound athletes to be randomly tested by the United States Anti-Doping Agency, but had exempted NHL players in 1998. The NHL preferred a more uniform method where all players would undergo the same number of tests from the WADA. An agreement was reached that the WADA would start testing players after the NHL playoffs were finished.

In late 2005, two NHL players that had been listed as potential Olympians failed drug tests administered by the WADA. American Bryan Berard, who had competed in the 1998 Winter Olympics, tested positive for 19-Norandrosterone. Canadian José Théodore failed a drug test because he was taking Propecia, a hair loss medication which contains the non-performance enhancing drug Finasteride. Neither player had made their team's final roster but received two year bans from international competition.

This is the all-time count of medals won in ice hockey at the Olympics, including both the men's and women's tournaments.

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Ice hockey

Ice hockey at McGill University, Montreal, 1901.

Ice hockey, often referred to simply as hockey in North America, is a team sport played on ice. It is a fast paced and physical sport. Ice hockey is most popular in areas that are sufficiently cold for natural reliable seasonal ice cover such as Canada, the northern United States, Scandinavia and Russia, though with the advent of indoor artificial ice rinks it has become a year-round pastime at the amateur level in major metropolitan areas such as cities that host a National Hockey League (NHL) or other professional-league team. It is one of the four major North American professional sports, where the NHL is at the highest level for men, and the Canadian Women's Hockey League (CWHL) and the Western Women's Hockey League (WWHL) are at the highest level of women's ice hockey in the world. It is the official national winter sport of Canada, where the game enjoys immense popularity. Only six of the thirty NHL franchises are based in Canada, but Canadians make up a slight yet dominant majority of the league's players.

While there are 66 total members of the International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF), Canada, the Czech Republic, Finland, Russia, Slovakia, Sweden and the United States have finished in most of the coveted 1st, 2nd and 3rd places at IIHF World Championships. Of the 63 medals awarded in men's competition at the Olympic level from 1920 on, only six did not go to the one of those countries, or a former entity thereof, such as Czechoslovakia or the Soviet Union. Only one of those six medals was above bronze. Those seven nations have also captured 162 of 177 medals awarded at 59 non-Olympic IIHF World Championships, and all medals since 1954. Likewise, all nine Olympic and 27 IIHF World Women Championships medals have gone to one of those seven countries.

European immigrants brought various versions of hockey-like games to North America, such as the Irish sport of hurling, the closely related Scottish sport of shinty, and versions of field hockey played in England. Where necessary, these seem to have been adapted for icy conditions; for example, a colonial Williamsburg newspaper records hockey being played in a snow storm in Virginia. Early paintings show "shinney", an early form of hockey with no standard rules, being played in Nova Scotia.

Author Thomas Chandler Haliburton wrote in a book of fiction, about boys from King's College School in Windsor, Nova Scotia, playing "hurley on the ice" when he was a student there around 1800 (Haliburton was born in 1796). To this day, shinny (or shinney) (derived from Shinty) is a popular Canadian term for an informal type of hockey, either on ice or as street hockey. These early games may have also absorbed the physically aggressive aspects of what the Mi'kmaq Aboriginal First Nation in Nova Scotia called dehuntshigwa'es (lacrosse).

In 1825 Sir John Franklin wrote that "The game of hockey played on the ice was the morning sport" while on Great Bear Lake during one of his Arctic expeditions. In 1843 a British Army officer in Kingston, Ontario, wrote "Began to skate this year, improved quickly and had great fun at hockey on the ice." A Boston Evening Gazette article from 1859 makes reference to an early game of hockey on ice occurring in Halifax in that year.

The first recorded hockey games were played by soldiers stationed in Kingston and Halifax during the mid 1850s. In the early 1870s, the first known set of ice hockey rules were drawn up by students at Montreal's McGill University. These rules established the number of players per side to 9 and replaced the ball with a square puck.

Based on Haliburton's writings, there have been claims that modern ice hockey originated in Windsor, Nova Scotia, and was named after an individual, as in 'Colonel Hockey's game'. Proponents of this theory claim that the surname Hockey exists in the district surrounding Windsor. In 1943, the Canadian Amateur Hockey Association declared Kingston the birthplace of hockey, based on a recorded 1886 game played between students of Queen's University and the Royal Military College of Canada.

The committee found evidence of stick and ball games played on ice on skates in Europe in the sixteenth through eighteenth centuries, and viewed these activities as being more indicative of a hockey-like game than Haliburton’s reference.

They found no evidence in the Windsor position of a connection from whatever form of hockey might have been played at Long Pond to the game played elsewhere and to modern hockey. The committee viewed as conjecture the assertion that King’s schoolboys introduced the game to Halifax. They noted that the assertion that hockey was not played outside Nova Scotia until 1865 overlooks diary evidence of shinny and hockey being played at Kingston in the 1840s.

The committee concluded that Dr. Vaughan and the Windsor Hockey Heritage Society had not offered credible evidence that Windsor, Nova Scotia, is the birthplace of hockey.

The committee offered no opinion on the birth date or birthplace of hockey, but took note of a game at Montreal’s Victoria Skating Rink on March 3, 1875. This is the earliest eyewitness account known to the committee of a specific game of hockey in a specific place at a specific time, and with a recorded score, between two identified teams.

According to the Society for International Hockey Research, the word puck is derived from the Scottish and Gaelic word "puc" or the Irish word "poc", meaning to poke, punch or deliver a blow. This definition is explained in a book published in 1910 entitled "English as we Speak it in Ireland" by P.W. Joyce. It defines the word puck as "… The blow given by a hurler to the ball with his caman or hurley is always called a puck".

The foundation of the modern game centres on Montreal. On March 3, 1875 the first organized indoor game was played at Montreal's Victoria Skating Rink by James George Aylwin Creighton and several McGill University students. In 1877, several McGill students, including Creighton, Henry Joseph, Richard F. Smith, W.F. Robertson, and W.L. Murray codified seven ice hockey rules. The first ice hockey club, McGill University Hockey Club, was founded in 1877 followed by the Montreal Victorias, organized in 1881. The game became so popular that the first "world championship" of ice hockey was featured in Montreal's annual Winter Carnival in 1883 and the McGill team captured the "Carnival Cup". In 1886, the teams which competed at the Winter Carnival would organize the Amateur Hockey Association of Canada(AHAC) league.

In Europe, it is believed that in 1885 the Oxford University Ice Hockey Club was formed to play the first Ice Hockey Varsity Match against traditional rival Cambridge in St. Moritz, Switzerland, although this is undocumented. This match was won by the Oxford Dark Blues, 6-0. The first photographs and team lists date from 1895. This continues to be the oldest hockey rivalry in history.

In 1888, the new Governor General of Canada, Lord Stanley of Preston, whose sons and daughter became hockey enthusiasts, attended the Montreal Winter Carnival tournament and was impressed with the hockey spectacle. In 1892, recognizing that there was no recognition for the best team in all of Canada, (various leagues had championship trophies) he purchased a decorative bowl for use as a trophy. The Dominion Hockey Challenge Cup, which later became more famously known as the Stanley Cup, was first awarded in 1893 to the Montreal HC, champions of the AHAC. It continues to be awarded today to the National Hockey League's championship team.

By 1893, there were almost a hundred teams in Montreal alone, and leagues throughout Canada. Winnipeg hockey players had incorporated cricket pads to better protect the goaltender's legs. They also introduced the "scoop" shot, later known as the wrist shot.

1893 also saw the first ice hockey matches in the U.S., at Yale University and Johns Hopkins University. The U.S. Amateur Hockey League was founded in New York City in 1896, and the first professional team, the Portage Lake hockey club was formed in 1903 in Houghton, Michigan (although there had been individual professionals in Canada before this).

The five sons of Lord Stanley were instrumental in bringing ice hockey to Europe, beating a court team (which included both the future Edward VII and George V) at Buckingham Palace in 1895. By 1903 a five-team league had been founded. The Ligue Internationale de Hockey sur Glace was founded in 1908 to govern international competitions, and the first European championships were won by Great Britain in 1910. In the mid-20th century, the Ligue became the International Ice Hockey Federation.

Professional ice hockey has existed since before World War I. From the first professional ice hockey league based in Houghton, Michigan in the United States, it quickly grew into Canada and many other countries, including Switzerland, Ukraine, Great Britain and Austria.

Since ice hockey is a full contact sport and bodychecks are allowed, injuries may be a common occurrence. Protective equipment is highly recommended and is enforced in all competitive situations. This usually includes a helmet, shoulder pads, elbow pads, mouth guard, protective gloves, heavily padded shorts (also known as hockey pants), athletic cup/jock strap, shin pads,and a neck protector. And for goalies helmet, neck guard, chest protector, athletic cup/jock strap, heavily padded shorts (also known as hockey pants) and leg pads.

While the general characteristics of the game are the same wherever it is played, the exact rules depend on the particular code of play being used. The two most important codes are those of the International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) and of the North American National Hockey League (NHL).

Ice hockey is played on a hockey rink. During normal play, there are six players, including one goaltender, per side on the ice at any time, each of whom is on ice skates. The objective of the game is to score goals by shooting a hard vulcanized rubber disc, the puck, into the opponent's goal net, which is placed at the opposite end of the rink. The players may control the puck using a long stick with a blade that is commonly curved at one end.

Players may also redirect the puck with any part of their bodies, subject to certain restrictions. Players can angle their feet so the puck can redirect into the net, but there can be no kicking motion. Players may not intentionally bat the puck into the net with their hands.

Hockey is an "offside" game, meaning that forward passes are allowed, unlike in rugby. Before the 1930s hockey was an onside game, meaning that only backward passes were allowed. The period of the onside game was the golden age of stick-handling, which was of prime importance in moving the game forward. With the arrival of offside rules, the forward pass transformed hockey into a truly team sport, where individual heroics diminished in importance relative to team play, which could now be coordinated over the entire surface of the ice as opposed to merely rearward players.

The five players other than the goaltender are typically divided into three forwards and two defencemen. The forward positions consist of a centre and two wingers: a left wing and a right wing. Forwards often play together as units or lines, with the same three forwards always playing together. The defencemen usually stay together as a pair, but may change less frequently than the forwards. A substitution of an entire unit at once is called a line change. Teams typically employ alternate sets of forward lines and defensive pairings when shorthanded or on a power play. Substitutions are permitted at any time during the course of the game, although during a stoppage of play the home team is permitted the final change. When players are substituted during play, it is called changing on the fly. A new NHL rule added in the 2005-2006 season prevents a team from changing their line after they ice the puck.

The boards surrounding the ice help keep the puck in play and they can also be used as tools to play the puck. The referees, linesmen and the outsides of the goal are "in play" and do not cause a stoppage of the game when the puck or players are influenced (by either bouncing or colliding) into them. Play can be stopped if the goal is knocked out of position. Play often proceeds for minutes without interruption. When play is stopped, it is restarted with a faceoff. Two players "face" each other and an official drops the puck to the ice, where the two players attempt to gain control of the puck.

There are three major rules of play in ice hockey that limit the movement of the puck: offsides, icing, and the puck going out of play. The puck goes "out of play" whenever it goes past the perimeter of the ice rink (onto the player benches, over the "glass", or onto the protective netting above the glass) and a stoppage of play should be called by the officials. It also does not matter if the puck comes back onto to the ice surface from those areas as the puck is considered dead once it leaves the perimeter of the rink.

Under IIHF rules, each team may carry a maximum of 20 players and two goaltenders on their roster. NHL rules restrict the total number of players per game to 18 (twelve forwards and six defensemen) plus two goaltenders.

For most penalties, the offending player is sent to the penalty box and his team has to play without him and with one less skater for a short amount of time. Most minor penalties last for two minutes, unless a major penalty of five minutes duration, or a double minor penalty of two consecutive penalties of two minutes duration, has been assessed. The team that has taken the penalty is said to be playing shorthanded while the other team is on the powerplay.

A two-minute minor penalty is often called for lesser infractions such as tripping, elbowing, roughing, high-sticking, delay of the game, holding or too many players on the ice, illegal equipment, charging (leaping into an opponent or body-checking him after taking more than two strides), holding, interference, hooking, or cross-checking. As of the 2005-06 season, a minor is also assessed for diving, where a player embellishes a hook or trip. More egregious fouls of this type may be penalized by a four-minute double-minor penalty, particularly those which cause injury to the victimized player. These penalties end either when the time runs out or the other team scores on the power play. In the case of a goal scored during the first two minutes of a double-minor, the penalty clock is set down to two minutes upon a score effectively expiring the first minor penalty. Five-minute major penalties are called for especially violent instances of most minor infractions that result in intentional injury to an opponent, or when a "minor" penalty results in visible injury (such as bleeding), as well as for fighting. Major penalties are always served in full; they do not terminate on a goal scored by the other team. The foul of 'boarding', defined as "check an opponent in such a manner that causes the opponent to be thrown violently in the boards" by the NHL Rulebook is penalized either by a minor or major penalty at the discretion of the referee, based on the violence of the hit. A minor or major penalty for "Boarding" is also often assessed when a player checks an opponent from behind and into the boards.

Some varieties of penalties do not always require the offending team to play a man short. Concurrent five-minute major penalties in the NHL usually result from fighting. In the case of two players being assessed five-minute fighting majors, they both serve five minutes without their team incurring a loss of player (both teams still have a full complement of players on the ice). This differs with two players from opposing sides getting minor penalties, at the same time or at any intersecting moment, resulting from more common infractions. In that case, both teams will have only four skating players (not counting the goaltender) until one or both penalties expire (if one expires before the other, the opposing team gets a power play for the remainder); this applies regardless of current pending penalties, though in the NHL, a team always has at least three skaters on the ice. Ten-minute misconduct penalties are served in full by the penalized player, but his team may immediately substitute another player on the ice unless a minor or major penalty is assessed in conjunction with the misconduct (a two-and-ten or five-and-ten). In that case, the team designates another player to serve the minor or major; both players go to the penalty box, but only the designee may not be replaced, and he is released upon the expiration of the two or five minutes, at which point the ten-minute misconduct begins. In addition, game misconducts are assessed for deliberate intent to inflict severe injury on an opponent (at the officials' discretion), or for a major penalty for a stick infraction or repeated major penalties. The offending player is ejected from the game and must immediately leave the playing surface (he does not sit in the penalty box); meanwhile, if a minor or major is assessed in addition, a designated player must serve out that segment of the penalty in the box (similar to the above-mentioned "two-and-ten").

A player who is tripped, or illegally obstructed in some way, by an opponent on a breakaway – when there are no defenders except the goaltender between him and the opponent's goal – is awarded a penalty shot, an attempt to score without opposition from any defenders except the goaltender. A penalty shot is also awarded for a defender other than the goaltender covering the puck in the goal crease, a goaltender intentionally displacing his own goal posts during a breakaway in order to avoid a goal, a defender intentionally displacing his own goal posts when there is less than two minutes to play in regulation time or at any point during overtime, or a player or coach intentionally throwing a stick or other object at the puck or the puck carrier and the throwing action disrupts a shot or pass play.

Officials also stop play for puck movement violations, such as using one's hands to pass the puck in the offensive end, but no players are penalized for these offences. The sole exceptions are deliberately falling on or gathering the puck to the body, carrying the puck in the hand, and shooting the puck out of play in one's defensive zone (all penalized two minutes for delay of game).

A new penalty in the NHL applies to the goalies. The goalies now are unable to play the puck in the "corners" of the rink near their own net. This will result in a two-minute penalty against the goalie's team. The area immediately behind the net is the only area behind the net in which the goalie can play the puck.

An additional rule that is not a penalty in the new NHL is the two line offside passes. There are no more two-line offside pass whistles blown. Now players are able to pass to teammates who are more than the blue and centre ice red line away.

The NHL has taken steps to speed the game of hockey up and create a game of finesse, by retreating from the past where illegal hits, fights, and "clutching and grabbing" among players was commonplace. Rules are now much more strictly enforced resulting in more infractions being penalized which in turn provides more protection to the players and allows for more goals to be scored.

There are many infractions for which a player may be assessed a penalty. The governing body for United States amateur hockey has implemented many new rules to reduce the number stick-on-body occurrences, as well as other detrimental and illegal facets of the game ("Zero Tolerance").

In men's hockey, but not in women's, a player may use his hip or shoulder to hit another player if the player has the puck or is the last to have touched it. This use of the hip and shoulder is called body checking. Not all physical contact is legal — in particular, hits from behind and most types of forceful stick-on-body contact are illegal.

A typical game of ice hockey has two to four officials on the ice, charged with enforcing the rules of the game. There are typically two linesmen who are responsible only for calling offside and icing violations, and one or two referees, who call goals and all other penalties. Linesmen can, however, report to the referee(s) that a penalty more severe than a two-minute minor penalty should be assessed against an offending player, or when a too many men on the ice infraction occurs. On-ice officials are assisted by off-ice officials who act as goal judges, time keepers, and official scorers.

The most widespread system in use today is the 3-man system, that features one referee and two linesmen. With the first being the National Hockey League, a number of leagues have started to implement the 4-official system, where an additional referee is added to aid in the calling of penalties normally difficult to assess by one single referee. The system has proven quite successful in the NHL and the IIHF have adopted it for the World Championships, slightly discussed during the 2008 World Championships in Quebec City and Halifax, Canada. Many other leagues are adopting the system for the next season, which only downside at the moment is the increased cost for the leagues.

Officials are selected by the league for which they work. Amateur hockey leagues use guidelines established by national organizing bodies as a basis for choosing their officiating staffs. In North America, the national organizing bodies Hockey Canada and USA Hockey approve officials according to their experience level as well as their ability to pass rules knowledge and skating ability tests. Hockey Canada has officiating levels I through VI. USA Hockey has officiating levels 1 through 4.

Officials can also be called a referee.

An important defensive tactic is checking – attempting to take the puck from an opponent or to remove the opponent from play. Stick checking, sweep checking, and poke checking are legal uses of the stick to obtain possession of the puck. The neutral zone trap is designed to isolate the puck carrier in the neutral zone preventing him from entering the offensive zone. Body checking is using one's shoulder or hip to strike an opponent who has the puck or who is the last to have touched it (the last person to have touched the puck is still legally "in possession" of it, although a penalty is generally called if he is checked more than two seconds after his last touch). Often the term checking is used to refer to body checking, with its true definition generally only propagated among fans of the game.

Offensive tactics include improving a team's position on the ice by advancing the puck out of one's zone towards the opponent's zone, progressively by gaining lines, first your own blue line, then the red line and finally the opponent's blue line. NHL rules instated for the 2006 season redefined icing to make the two-line pass legal; a player may pass the puck from behind his own blue line, past both that blue line and the centre red line, to a player in front of the opponents' blue line. Offensive tactics are designed ultimately to score a goal by taking a shot. When a player purposely directs the puck towards the opponent's goal, he or she is said to shoot the puck.

A deflection is a shot which redirects a shot or a pass towards the goal from another player, by allowing the puck to strike the stick and carom towards the goal. A one-timer is a shot which is struck directly off a pass, without receiving the pass and shooting in two separate actions. A deke (short for decoy) is a feint with the body and/or stick to fool a defender or the goalie. Headmanning the puck, also known as cherry-picking or breaking out, is the tactic of rapidly passing to the player farthest down the ice.

A team that is losing by one or two goals in the last few minutes of play will often elect to pull the goalie; that is, remove the goaltender and replace him or her with an extra attacker on the ice in the hope of gaining enough advantage to score a goal. However, it is an act of desperation, as it sometimes leads to the opposing team extending their lead by scoring a goal in the empty net.

A delayed penalty call occurs when a penalty offense is committed by the team that does not have possession of the puck. In this circumstance the team with possession of the puck is allowed to complete the play; that is, play continues until a goal is scored, a player on the opposing team gains control of the puck, or the team in possession commits an infraction or penalty of their own. Because the team on which the penalty was called cannot control the puck without stopping play, it is impossible for them to score a goal, however, it is possible for the controlling team to mishandle the puck into their own net. In these cases the team in possession of the puck can pull the goalie for an extra attacker without fear of being scored on. If a delayed penalty is signaled and the team in possession scores, the penalty is still assessed to the offending player, but not served.

Although fighting is officially prohibited in the rules, at the professional level in North America fights are unofficially condoned. Enforcers and other players fight to demoralize the opposing players while exciting their own, as well as settling personal scores. The amateur game strictly prohibits fisticuffs, as a player who receives a fighting major is also assessed at least a 10 minute miscounduct penalty (NCAA and some Junior league) or a game misconduct penalty (high school and younger).

A professional game consists of three periods of twenty minutes each, the clock running only when the puck is in play. The teams change ends for the second period, again for the third period, and again at the start of each overtime played. Recreational leagues and children's leagues often play shorter games, generally with three shorter periods of play.

Various procedures are used if a game is tied. In tournament play, as well as in the NHL playoffs, North Americans favour sudden death overtime, in which the teams continue to play twenty minute periods until a goal is scored. Up until the 1999-2000 season regular season NHL games were settled with a single five minute sudden death period with five players (plus a goalie) per side, with the winner awarded two points in the standings and the loser no points. In the event of a tie (if the overtime was scoreless), each team was awarded one point. From 1999-2000 until 2003-04 the National Hockey League decided ties by playing a single five minute sudden death overtime period with each team having four players (plus a goalie) per side to "open-up" the game. In the event of a tie, each team would still receive one point in the standings but in the event of a victory the winning team would be awarded two points in the standings and the losing team one point. The only exception to this rule is if a team opts to pull their goalie in exchange for an extra skater during overtime and is subsequently scored upon (an 'Empty Net' goal), in which case the losing team receives no points for the overtime loss. International play and several North American professional leagues, including the NHL (in the regular season), now use an overtime period followed by a penalty shootout. If the score remains tied after an extra overtime period, the subsequent shootout consists of three players from each team taking penalty shots. After these six total shots, the team with the most goals is awarded the victory. If the score is still tied, the shootout then proceeds to a sudden death format. Regardless of the number of goals scored during the shootout by either team, the final score recorded will award the winning team one more goal than the score at the end of regulation time. In the NHL if a game is decided by a shootout the winning team is awarded two points in the standings and the losing team is awarded one point. Ties no longer occur in the NHL.

Lord Stanley of Preston's daughter, Lady Isobel Stanley, was a pioneer in the women's game and is one of the first females to be photographed using puck and stick (around 1890) on the natural ice rink at Rideau Hall in Ottawa, Canada. By the early 1900s, women's teams were common throughout most of the Canadian provinces, the long skirts they were still required to wear giving them a goal-tending advantage. On March 8, 1899, the first account appeared in the Ottawa Evening Journal newspaper of a game played between two women's teams of four per side at the Rideau Skating Rink in Ottawa. On February 11, 1891, one of the earliest newspaper accounts of a seven-a-side game between women appeared in the Ottawa Citizen. McGill University's women's hockey team debuted in 1894.. In 1920, Lady Isobel Brenda (Allan) Meredith of Montreal donated the 'Lady Meredith Cup', the first ice hockey trophy in Canada to be competed for between women in ankle-length skirts. Lady Meredith (the wife of Sir Vincent Meredith) was the first cousin of Sir H. Montagu Allan who had donated the Allan Cup for men's amateur ice hockey in 1908.

Ice hockey is one of the fastest growing women's sports in the world, with the number of participants increasing 400 percent in the last 10 years. While there are not as many organized leagues for women as there are for men, there exist leagues of all levels, including the National Women's Hockey League, Western Women's Hockey League, and various European leagues; as well as university teams, national and Olympic teams, and recreational teams. There have been nine IIHF World Women Championships.

Women's ice hockey was added as a medal sport at the 1998 Winter Olympics in Nagano, Japan. The United States won gold, Canada won silver and Finland won bronze.

The chief difference between women's and men's ice hockey is that body checking is not allowed in women's ice hockey. After the 1990 Women's World Championship, body checking was eliminated because female players in many countries do not have the size and mass seen in North American players. In current IIHF women's competition, body checking is either a minor or major penalty, decided at the referee's discretion.

In addition, players in women's competition are required to wear protective full-face masks.

One woman, Manon Rhéaume, appeared as a goaltender for the NHL's Tampa Bay Lightning in preseason games against the St. Louis Blues and the Boston Bruins, and in 2003 Hayley Wickenheiser played with the Kirkkonummi Salamat in the Finnish men's Suomi-sarja league. Several women have competed in North American minor leagues, including goaltenders Charline Labonté, Kelly Dyer, Erin Whitten, Manon Rhéaume, and defenceman Angela Ruggiero.

Sledge hockey is a form of ice hockey designed for players with physical disabilities affecting their lower bodies. Players sit on double-bladed sledges and use two sticks; each stick has a blade at one end and small picks at the other. Players use the sticks to pass, stickhandle and shoot the puck, and to propel their sledges. The rules are very similar to IIHF ice hockey rules.

Canada is a recognized international leader in the development of the sport, and of equipment for players. Much of the equipment for the sport was first developed in Canada, such as sledge hockey sticks laminated with fiberglass, as well as aluminum shafts with hand carved insert blades and special aluminum sledges with regulation skate blades.

Pond hockey is a form of ice hockey played generally as pick-up hockey on lakes and ponds. Pond hockey rules differ from traditional hockey, placing a greater emphasis on skating abilities. Since 2002, the World Pond Hockey Championship has been played in Plaster Rock, New Brunswick, Canada.

The annual men's Ice Hockey World Championships are more highly regarded by Europeans than North Americans because they coincide with the Stanley Cup playoffs. Consequently, Canada, the United States, and other countries with large numbers of NHL players have not always been able to field their best possible teams because many of their top players are playing for the Stanley Cup. Furthermore, for many years professionals were barred from play. Now that many Europeans play in the NHL, the world championships no longer represent all of the world's top players.

Hockey has been played at the Winter Olympics since 1924 (and at the summer games in 1920). Canada won six of the first seven gold medals, except in 1936 when Great Britain won. The United States won their first gold medal in 1960. The USSR won all but two Olympic ice hockey gold medals from 1956 to 1988 and won a final time as the Unified Team at the 1992 Albertville Olympics. U.S. amateur college players defeated the heavily favored Soviet squad on the way to winning the gold medal at the 1980 Lake Placid Olympics - an event known as the "Miracle on ice" in the United States. Since the 1998 games in Nagano all top players from the NHL have been able to take part and nowadays Winter Olympics games are the most highly regarded international tournament by ice hockey fans.

Switzerland has won two men's bronze medals at the Olympics and finished third several times at the World Championships. Switzerland also maintains one of the oldest and top-rated ice hockey leagues (the Swiss National League A) outside of the NHL.

The 1972 Summit Series and 1974 Summit Series, established Canada and the USSR as a major international ice hockey rivalry. It was followed by five Canada Cup tournaments, where the best players from every hockey nation could play, and two exhibition series, the 1979 Challenge Cup and Rendez-vous '87 where the best players from the NHL played the USSR. The Canada Cup tournament later became the World Cup of Hockey, played in 1996 and 2004. The United States won in 1996 and Canada won in 2004.

The annual Euro Hockey Tour, an unofficial European championships between the national men's teams of the Czech Republic, Finland, Russia and Sweden have been played since 1996-97.

Other ice hockey tournaments featuring national teams include the World U20 Championship, the World U18 Championships, the World U-17 Hockey Challenge, the World Junior A Challenge, the Ivan Hlinka Memorial Tournament, the World Women's U18 Championships and the 4 Nations Cup.

The National Hockey League is the oldest international competition, featuring clubs from the United States and Canada.

The Kontinental Hockey League, an international ice hockey league in Eurasia and the successor to the Russian Super League, features clubs from the post-Soviet states in its inaugural season and seeks to expand beyond the former USSR for the league's future seasons.

The Elite Ice Hockey League is the highest level of ice hockey in Great Britain. The league is served by teams from all of the home nations: England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.

The Asia League Ice Hockey, an international ice hockey league featuring clubs from China, Japan and South Korea, is the successor to the Japan Ice Hockey League.

International club competitions organized by the IIHF include the Champions Hockey League, the Continental Cup, the Victoria Cup and the European Women's Champions Cup.

The second oldest international ice hockey competition for clubs after the Stanley Cup playoffs is the Spengler Cup, held every year in Davos, Switzerland between Christmas and New Year's Day. It was first awarded in 1923 to Oxford University Ice Hockey Club.

Pre-season tournaments include the Tampere Cup and the Pajulahti Cup.

Ice hockey, partially because of its popularity as a major professional sport, has been a source of inspiration for numerous films, television episodes and songs in North American popular culture.

The largest hockey attendance in history was on October 6, 2001, for a game commonly known as the Cold War. Two college hockey rivals, University of Michigan and Michigan State University, opened their season with a game in Michigan State's outdoor football arena, Spartan Stadium. A $500,000 sheet of ice was used, and the temperature was 30 °F (−1 °C). The game drew a record-breaking 74,554 spectators, smashing the previous number of 55,000 attendance during the Sweden vs. Soviet Union game during the world championship in Moscow.

The Heritage Classic was an outdoor ice hockey game played on November 22, 2003 in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada between the Edmonton Oilers and the Montreal Canadiens. It set the record for most viewers of a single NHL game with 2.747 million nationwide.

An old-timers game, referred to as the MegaStars game, was played prior to the regular-season match, and featured an alumnus of Oilers playing against a squad of former Canadiens. This is the only NHL alumni game in which Wayne Gretzky has played since retiring, and he maintains it will be the first of many.

The largest crowd to ever watch an NHL game was during the AMP Energy NHL Winter Classic when 71,000 people watched the Pittsburgh Penguins battle the Buffalo Sabres. The game was held at Ralph Wilson Stadium, which is the Buffalo Bills home stadium in Orchard Park, New York, a suburb of Buffalo, on January 1, 2008. This was the first NHL game held outdoors in the United States. The Penguins scored the first goal within the first 20 seconds of the game. The Sabres then scored in the 2nd period to tie the game. The game went into overtime and the Penguins ended up winning during a shoot out on a goal by Sidney Crosby. Both teams wore throwback jerseys - the Penguins donning the powder blue jerseys from the 70s and the Sabres old-logo jerseys from the same era. Both goalies, Ryan Miller and Ty Conklin played in their second outdoor game. The game was easily a success from a PR and hockey standpoint for the NHL despite the cold temperatures and snow.

On February 6, 2010, Michigan and Wisconsin are scheduled to play in the Camp Randall Hockey Classic, an outdoor game at Wisconsin's Camp Randall Stadium. If the game sells to capacity, 80,321, it would break the current record held by the Cold War.

Shortly after Wisconsin and Michigan agreed to play at Camp Randall Stadium, Michigan and Michigan State agreed to play an outdoor game the following season at Michigan Stadium, shortly after the completion of the stadium's renovation project. Tentatively called The Cold War II, if the game sells to capacity it would likely break and set once and for all, the attendance record for a college hockey game. Michigan Stadium is slated to hold over 108,000 following renovations, which will again make it the largest football stadium in the world, and largest sports stadium in the United States. The Detroit Red Wings have expressed interest in negotiating with the University of Michigan on an outdoor game of their own, leaving the possibility of breaking the overall attendance record should such a game ever occur.

Number of registered hockey players, provided by the respective countries' federations. Note that data is not available for every country.

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Source : Wikipedia