The 2018 Winter Olympics kick off in Pyeongchang on February 9 and NHL players will be missing for the first time since the Lillehammer games in 1994. For most North American fans, ice hockey is a big draw in the Winter Olympics and it’s disappointing not to see the world’s biggest stars compete. Ice hockey usually generates a lot of pre-Olympic buzz, but not this year with the household names staying home..
Still, the popularity of both men’s and women’s ice hockey has grown in the United States and Team USA has been reaping the benefits. The women brought home gold in 1998 and followed up with silvers in 2002, 2010, and 2014. The 2002 and 2010 Men’s teams also brought home silvers,, their first medals since the Miracle on Ice. Most of the players from the 2010 men’s medalists won’t be participating this year, but we’ll talk later about some familiar faces you’ll see at the rink next month.
Olympic hockey differs from NHL hockey in several different ways, the bigger ice surface being the most glaring. Olympic ice hockey is played on a rink measuring 98 feet by 197 feet (30 meters by 60 meters). Lengthwise it’s about the same as an NHL rink, but NHL rinks are only 85 feet wide to encourage hitting. Firing passes across 98 feet of ice can be a dangerous endeavor. Additionally, players have more space behind the nets and goalies can play the puck anywhere on the ice.
Olympic Ice Hockey Schedule
The men and women will both play their tournaments over two week starting February 10. The ladies get going first, with the gentlemen picking up a few days later.
Women’s Ice Hockey
- Preliminaries: Feb 10 – Feb 15
- Quarterfinals: Feb 17
- Classification: Feb 18
- Semifinals: Feb 19
- Classification: Feb 20
- Bronze Medal Game: Feb 21
- Gold Medal Game: Feb 22
Men’s Ice Hockey
- Preliminaries: Feb 14 – Feb 18
- Qualification: Feb 20
- Quarterfinals: Feb 21
- Semifinals: Feb 23
- Bronze Medal Game: Feb 24
- Gold Medal Game: Feb 25
Olympic Hockey Teams to Watch
Despite the lack of NHL players, there’s still plenty of firepower on these Olympics squads. Here’s a few teams from both the men’s and women’s tournament who have the best odds to take home the gold.
- Olympic Men’s Team from Russia – Playing under a neutral flag due to the Russian doping scandal, this squad can still fall back on superstars Pavel Datsyuk and Ilya Kovalchuk. Many players here are looking to avenge their disappointing 2014 performance in Sochi.
- United States Women’s Team – Amanda Kessel and company are looking to finish the fight this year after taking home the silver in 2014. Lots of new faces this time around, but captain Meghan Duggan is competing in her third consecutive Olympic hockey tournament.
- Canadian Men’s Team – They might not have Sidney Crosby or Steven Stamkos, but the Canadian men’s team is loaded with former NHL players. Derek Roy, Mason Raymond, and Rene Bourque give Canada an experienced top line and goalie Ben Scrivens still holds the NHL record for most saves in a single game (59).
- Finland Women’s Team – The Finnish women’s team is looking to do just that this year – finish. After a disappointing fifth place finish in Sochi, the Finland Women’s Team has torn up international competition, taking the gold in the 2017 Women’s Nations Cup and the bronze in the World Championships.
How to Watch
With the games on NBC, cord cutters will have no shortage of options. Games will be on the NBC family of networks (NBC, CNBC, NBC Sports) and NBCOlympics.com is dedicated to streaming live events. Full viewing schedule will be available closer to the opening ceremonies.
For Cord-Cutters, here’s a list of services that allow you to stream the Olympics. The 2018 Olympic Games are on NBC. Some Hockey matches will also be aired on USA. Here are the streaming services that carry NBC and USA:
For more details about these services and details about the Olympic Games, visit our main 2018 Winter Olympics page.