Winter Olympics: Ice Hockey
A tournament of veterans
Men's Ice Hockey
It's hard to believe it's been 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."
For the 2010 Olympic Games, held in Vancouver, Canada, the outlook for the U.S. hasn't approved. Canada and Russia are 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 is stronger than ever. Sweden also looks to repeat 2006's Olympic gold, with a third-place rating in the world; they are directly above Finland, the winner of the silver in the last Games. In fifth place, Team U.S.A. is placing faith in its newer, younger players; there are only 3 veteran Olympians on this year's squad, including Chris Drury and Brian Rafalski, members of the 2002 team that won the silver medal.
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 Torinom 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. No one will be surprised if this year's Olympics once again comes down to a competition against Canada and the United States. Though the U.S. is ranked first in the world, Canada will no doubt be a tough opponent, attempting to keep the gold at home.
Competition at the Vancouver Games starts on February 13 for the women and Februay 16 for the men. The gold medal matches will be on February 25 and 28 for the women and men, respectively. The games will be played at Canada Hockey Place and the UBC Thunderbird Arena.
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