Hockey at the 2018 PyeongChang Winter Olympic Games

Hockey at the 2018 PyeongChang Winter Olympic Games will be contested from Feb. 10-25, with medals awarded in two events.

Sochi in review

In 2014, the Canadian men were perfect in their repeat performance for Olympic hockey gold, winning all six games and allowing just three goals for the tournament in Sochi. In the gold medal game, NHL stars Johnathan Toews, Sidney Crosby and Chris Kunitz scored one goal apiece in the shutout victory against Sweden.

Canadian goalie Carey Price did his part by keeping 24 shots from the Swedes out of the net, while on the other side of the ice, Sweden’s goalie Henrik Lundqvist faced a barrage of 36 shots on goal.

It was their stifling team defense which allowed Canada to become the first men’s team in over 20 years to win back-to-back Olympic hockey gold medals, allowing just 129 shots on goal in Sochi.

Finland claimed the final spot on the Sochi medal podium, taking home bronze after a 5-0 thrashing of a United States team which became increasingly frustrated in a game where the Finns put up two goals early in the second period just 11 seconds apart.

Not to be outdone by their fellow countrymen, the Canadian women’s team, led by two goals by Marie-Philip Poulin, beat the U.S. 3-2 in Sochi in their own back-to-back Olympic gold-medal-winning performance.

It was déjà vu all over again for Poulin who also scored two goals in the gold medal game for Canada at the 2010 Vancouver Olympic Games, though this time was a bit more dramatic. Down 2-0 in the final period, Canada’s Brianne Jenner and Poulin scored a goal apiece in the final 3:26 to force overtime. In the deciding minutes, with a four-on-three power play, Canada worked the puck to Poulin once more to score the game-winner 8:10 into the overtime period.

In the bronze medal game, Switzerland got hot in the third period, shocking Sweden with four goals and cruised to a 4-3 win to claim the final podium spot. 

Competition format

When the puck drops in PyeongChang, twelve teams for the men and eight for the women will face off on the ice in hockey’s marquee Olympic events. The men’s tournament consists of three groups of four teams playing a total of 18 round robin games (three per team). The elimination round features four qualification playoff games, four quarterfinal games, two semifinal games and one bronze medal game and one gold medal game. The qualification process for the men’s tournament is complete.

Men’s tournament 

Group A Group B Group C
 Canada  Russia   Finland 
 Czech Republic   Slovakia   Germany 
 South Korea  Slovenia   Norway 
 Switzerland   United States   Sweden 

The women’s tournament has two groups of four teams playing a preliminary round robin of 12 games (three per team), followed by two quarterfinal games, two semifinal games, four final classification games, one bronze medal game and one gold medal game. The final two spots in women’s hockey at the 2018 PyeongChang Olympic Games will be determined in two tournaments played simutaneously from February 9-12, 2017. Switzerland, Czech Republic, Denmark and Norway will play in Arosa, Switzerland while Japan, Germany, Austria and France will face off in Tomakomai, Japan. The winning team at each of these tournaments will qualify for PyeongChang. 

Women’s tournament

Group A Group B
 Canada   South Korea 
 Finland   Sweden 
 Russia  TBD (February 2017)
 United States  TBD (February 2017)

Length of Play and Overtime

Games consist of three 20-minute periods with two 15-minute intermissions. A five-minute sudden death overtime will be played if preliminary and qualification round games finish the third period in a tie. The sudden death time increases to ten minutes in the quarterfinals, semifinals and Bronze Medal Game, while a full 20-minute overtime period will be played in the Gold Medal Game if the score is tied at the end of regulation.

The excitement doesn’t end there. If any Olympic ice hockey game is still even at the end of sudden death overtime, a three-round shootout will be used to determine the winner. And if that doesn’t end it, shootout “extras” will be taken, where any skater can take the shot. Or in the case of Team USA’s T.J. Oshie in 2014 against Russia, a single skater can put his team on his back for as many shots as it takes to get the win. Oshie needed five.

Rink dimensions

Olympic ice hockey is played on a rink roughly 200 feet long by 98 feet wide. This is about ten feet wider than the rinks in the NHL.


Hockey events will be held in two arenas built for the 2018 PyeongChang Winter Olympic Games. Located in the Gangnueng Coastal Cluster, Gangneung Hockey Centre and Kwandong Hockey Centre will be the place to see the world’s best hockey stars clash on the ice.

NHL in PyeongChang?

Fearing other sport federations with high-profile professional athletes would come knocking for financial assistance, the IOC announced it would no longer cover the costs of travel and insurance for NHL players to attend the Olympic Games.

Responding to the news, the International Ice Hockey Federation stepped in to say they would cover the costs. Despite the bill being picked up, some NHL owners are still reportedly unenthusiastic about their players appearing at the Olympic Games. 

Negotiations are reportedly set to resume during the final week of 2016 to decide the fate of NHL players hoping to play in PyeongChang. The NHL is said to want players to settle on a labor deal before agreeing to another Olympic Games. In early December, news surfaced that the NHLPA rejected an offer to extend the players’ current CBA for another three years in exchange for Olympic participation.

The lack of a marketable hockey audience in South Korea coupled with the unsavory two-week NHL season shutdown have also been cited as reasons for the NHL’s wavering Olympic support. If the NHL decides to skip PyeongChang, there is a chance they would come back in four years for the 2022 Beijing Olympic Games.

With the current NHL season in full swing, players and Olympic hockey fans wait for a final decision, which is expected to come no later than January 15.

Teams to watch

The complexion of the men’s tournament in PyeongChang could change dramatically if NHL players are not present, but we will cross our fingers and say these are the NHL stars and their counterparts in the women’s game you should look for in South Korea come February 10, 2018.

Men’s tournament
Sidney Crosby, Forward
Brad Marchand, Forward
Connor McDavid, Forward
Carey Price, Goalie

 United States 
Patrick Kane, Forward
T.J. Oshie, Forward
Jack Eichel, Forward
Jonathan Quick, Goalie

Nicklas Backstrom, Forward
Henrik Sedin, Forward

Valtteri Filppula, Forward
Tuukka Rask, Goalie

Nikita Kucherov, Forward
Alex Ovechkin, Forward

Women’s tournament
Rebecca Johnston, Forward
Marie-Philip Poulin, Forward
Natalie Spooner, Forward
Shannon Szabados, Goalie
Jennifer Wakefield, Forward

 United States
Brianna Decker, Forward
Amanda Kessel, Forward
Hilary Knight, Forward
Jocelyne Lamoureux-Davidson, Forward
Alex Rigsby, Goalie

Iya Gavrilova, Forward
Olga Sosina, Forward

Michelle Karvinen, Forward
Riikka Valila, Forward