Ice hockey in Vancouver: back to the roots
Canada’s national sport, ice hockey, will play a prominent role at the Vancouver Games, with matches spread out over all but one day of the entire programme. The men’s tournament, of which Sweden are the reigning champions, will feature 12 teams battling to advance to the playoff, then medals stages after the opening round robin tournaments. The women’s tournament, of which hosts Canada are the two-time defending champions, has a similar format except only eight teams are involved. Canadian player Jayna Hefford, who will compete in her fourth Games, says: “Canadians have such a respect for the game, and are so proud of our hockey heritage. I know that our performance matters to Canadians, and that means a lot to me and my teammates.”
Shots of 100 km/h
The Olympic rinks in Vancouver are four metres narrower than their international counterparts, the tournaments being played on a North American ice hockey surface. Held over three 20-minute periods, ice hockey matches usually shape up to be battles of skill, speed, determination and stamina between teams that contain 20 players and three goalkeepers (18 players and three goalkeepers for the women). At any one time only six players from each team are allowed on the ice – five players and one goaltender – as teams battle to get the solid rubber puck into the opposing team’s net with slick passing, fast skating and shots which can hit speeds well in excess of 100km/h.
Due to the sport’s competitive nature, players can often find themselves in the penalty box serving two-minute penalties for minor infractions such as tripping or hooking with the stick, or for longer for fighting or charging from behind. The loss of one or several players, in theory, gives the advantage to the opposing team, resulting in “power plays” where the numerical advantage often, but not always, leads to goals.Unique opportunity
US player Zach Parise shares the thrill playing for one’s home country: “Putting on your country’s jersey is always exciting. It’s not an opportunity that everybody gets so you want to make the best of it. When you have each country’s best players playing against each other, there’s bound to be some great hockey and it’s that much better when you have your whole country watching and supporting you.”In the tracks of the Vancouver Canucks
Matches will be spread over two venues – Canada Hockey Place and the University of British Columbia Thunderbird Arena (UBC). Canada Hockey Place needs no introduction to locals, fans of the game, or to the millions of patrons who have graced the venue over the past 14 years. As well as being the home of local NHL team the Vancouver Canucks, the facility is one of the most active entertainment venues in North America, and has welcomed a host of top names since its opening in 1995. The capacity of Canada Hockey Place is 18,630 and it regularly hosts 100 events each year.
The capacity at UBC, which is located on a large ocean-side campus on Vancouver’s west side, is 7,200. Following the 2010 Games, the UBC venue will serve as a recreational and high-performance multi-sport legacy facility.
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