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Wednesday, January 2, 2002
Updated: January 30, 7:12 PM ET
Fan Guide

By news services

Ice Hockey's animated fan guide feature takes you through the ins and outs of each sport. Check out each sport's fan guide for more.

Ice Hockey

Olympic competition dates: Feb. 9-24
Venue: E Center, The Peaks Ice Arena

The outlook
Men: Rosters are crammed with NHL stars, including goaltender Dominik Hasik, the six-time Vezina Trophy winner who helped the Czech Republic win gold in Nagano.

No team has more pressure than Canada, which last won Olympic gold in 1952. Executive director Wayne Gretzky, a member of Canada's fourth-place team at Nagano, has assembled an impressive roster of NHL players hoping to end that drought, led by Mario Lemieux, Joe Sakic, Rob Blake, Chris Pronger and Steve Yzerman. The American team includes goalies Mike Richter and Tom Barrasso, forwards Mike Modano, Brett Hull and Keith Tkachuk and defensemen Brian Leetch and Chris Chelios.

Women: Captain Cammi Granato is among 14 returning members of the U.S. team that won the gold medal in 1998. Canada is the main competition. The Americans have lost all seven world championships to Canada, but they swept eight straight against Canada on a pre-Olympic tour. Finland was the bronze medalist in Nagano and the first six world championships before Russia took third in 2001.

The finer points
This will be the second Olympics with the addition of professional players from the National Hockey League. In the Olympic men's tournament, 14 teams will compete, with six receiving automatic berths in the second round. The other eight ---Belarus, Ukraine, Slovakia, Germany, Austria, Latvia, Switzerland and France -- are split into two groups of four, and each group plays a three-game round-robin, which begins Feb. 9, with the group winner advancing to the second round. In the second round that begins on Feb. 15, the six automatic qualifiers and the two first-round group qualifiers are split into two groups of four and play a three-game round robin to determine seedings for the quarterfinals. The quarterfinals, semifinals and gold-medal match will be played as single-game elimination.

With the increase in popularity in women's hockey, two more teams will be competing at Salt Lake City than at Nagano. The teams are divided into groups of four and play a single round robin, which begins Feb. 11. The top two teams from each group are seeded in the gold- and bronze-medal games.

Men's teams will have 23 players, while women's teams will have 20. A team has only six players on the ice at a time: one goalkeeper, two defenders and three forwards. Games consists of three 20-minute periods, separated by two 15-minute intermissions. The Olympic rink is approximately 15 feet wider than an NHL rink, giving players more room to skate.

Also, in Olympic hockey physical play is treated much more harshly than in the NHL. For example, a second major penalty in the same game carries an automatic game-misconduct penalty, and any player starting a fight is assessed a match penalty.

The men's tournament is made up of 14 teams and consists of three rounds: preliminary round, final round and playoff round. The winner emerges from a gold-medal game.

The women's tournament is made up of eight teams and consists of a preliminary round and a playoff round. The winner emerges from a gold-medal game.

The 55 ice hockey games will be spread out over two venues -- The Peaks Ice Arena and the E Center. The E Center is home to the Utah Grizzlies, an International Hockey League team, and has a capacity of 10,451. The Peaks Ice Arena is in Provo, Utah, about 51 miles from the Olympic Village.

Rules differences
Here are the major rule differences between international hockey and the NHL:

  • Authority of linesman: In the NHL, may call certain penalties (example: stick infractions). In international hockey, may only call bench infractions.

  • Center red line: In the NHL, the red line is in play for the offside pass rule, meaning any forward pass crossing the red line and blue line is illegal. In international hockey, the red line is not in play, meaning an offside pass must cross both blue lines.

  • Fighting: In the NHL, a five-minute major penalty. In international hockey, a match penalty, carrying automatic ejection.

  • Goaltenders: In the NHL, may freeze the puck anywhere when being checked by an opponent. In international hockey, called for minor penalty for covering puck behind hash marks or goal line.

  • Ice surface: The NHL rink is 200 feet by 85 feet, with goal lines 11 feet from the end boards. The international rink is 60 meters by 30 meters (approximately 200 feet by 98.5 feet) with goal lines 13 feet from the end boards.

  • Icing: In the NHL, "touch icing;" a player on the defending team must touch the puck after it crosses the goal line for play to stop. In international hockey, "automatic icing;" play is stopped as soon as the puck crosses the goal line.

  • Penalty shots: In the NHL, must be taken by the player who is fouled, or -- if he is unable -- by a teammate on the ice at time of the infraction. In international hockey, can be taken by any player.

  • Player in crease: In the NHL, play is stopped when an attacking player is in the goal crease only if a goaltender interference is called. In international hockey, play is stopped any time an attacking player deliberately enters the goal crease, resulting in a neutral-zone faceoff.