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2022 Women’s Olympic Hockey begins this week

Best on best at the Olympic hockey rink.

Ice Hockey Training Session For Beijing 2022
A tune-up friendly in the arena in Beijing.
Photo by Li Jun/China News Service via Getty Images

The opening ceremony for the 2022 Winter Olympics is Friday evening in Beijing, which is early Friday morning in the Toronto time zone. Beijing is 13 hours ahead of Toronto. However, some events actually get underway before the ceremony, and one of those events is the Women’s Hockey tournament, the true best-on-best event on the ice this year. It begins for Team Canada on Wednesday night Toronto time.

The Olympics uses a format similar to the IIHF world championship with 10 teams in two groups. The groups are not balanced, rather they function as two tiers. The lower-ranked teams in the B group play in their own round-robin to determine the three teams added to group A for the quarterfinals. All five teams in Group A advance. Their round-robin decides ranking order only.

Group A

  • USA
  • Canada
  • Finland
  • Russia*
  • Switzerland

*Russia is presented at these games as ROC without the Russian flag or anthem as part of an ongoing punishment for serious and wide-ranging doping infractions. But we know that’s Russia, and it’s simply less confusing to call them by their name.

USA and Canada are overwhelmingly likely to finish first and second with their game against each other being the decider. Russia always looks like they should be better than they are, and Switzerland played very good games at the most recent World Championships. Finland is still most likely to hold them both off for third, but it gets more difficult every year.

Group B

  • Japan
  • Czechia
  • Sweden
  • Denmark
  • China

The host gets in automatically, removing one of the more plausible second tier teams like Germany or Hungary from the mix. China has a team made up of many imports and players of Chinese heritage, but there is no expectation they won’t be challenging for last place here. Denmark is punching above their weight by making this event as well, but they got here by winning the qualifying games when they needed to. Sweden is the darkest of dark horses in this group. They landed here because their program collapsed under the weight of mismanagement, protests over governments support and coaching choices that were not ideal. They are the most likely team to finish first in Group B, but Japan and Czechia are also good second tier teams.

Schedule

The official IIHF page lists the schedule in local time for the tournament and also your local time, assuming you haven’t blocked the site from reading that. However, they list times, using the 24-hour clock, as “+ 1 day” when what they really mean is “- 1 day” so don’t get confused. Beijing is ahead, so the first Team Canada game at 12:10 Beijing time on Feb 3 is actually the evening of Feb 2.

Team Canada’s games in Toronto time:

  • Canada vs Switzerland: Wednesday, February 2 at 11:10 pm
  • Canada vs Finland: Friday, February 4 at 11:10 pm
  • Russia vs Canada: Sunday, February 6 at 11:10 pm
  • USA vs Canada: Monday, February 7 at 11:10 pm

The first quarterfinal is on February 10, and the playoff rounds cover that week with the gold medal game on Thursday, February 17 at 11:10 pm.

The men’s tournament begins on February 9 and runs to February 19.

Rosters

Rosters are not yet official, and many teams are having some issues with last-minute positive Covid tests, most notably the Swiss. But all teams have announced their players that made up the group that was to travel to Beijing. Look for the IIHF site to be updated soon.

Team Canada’s roster is on the Hockey Canada site. They are essentially the same group from last summer’s World Championship win.

Rules

The IIHF brought out a new rule book for 2021-2022, and these rules debuted last summer for the women. For the women’s game, the rules are the rules, the same as a men’s game, with the exceptions listed separately.

The exceptions are mostly about equipment: they must wear full cages or shields, and are recommended to use things like mouthguards and neck protectors. But there is one major rule difference regarding bodychecking.

You might be under the impression that women’s hockey has no bodychecking or physical contact. That’s not quite how it works. The section in its entirety is meant to explain this difference in the game:

101.1. ILLEGAL HIT IN WOMEN’S HOCKEY

In Women’s Hockey “bodychecking” is allowed when there is a clear intention of playing the puck or attempting to “gain possession” of the puck with the exception from the situation described in the rule “illegal hit”.

If two (2) Players are in pursuit of the puck, they are reasonably allowed to push and lean into each other provided that “possession of the puck” remains the sole object of the two (2) Players.

A Player that is checking an opponent described in this rule will be assessed one of a:

(I) Minor Penalty (2’)
(II) Major Penalty (5’) and automatic Game Misconduct Penalty
(III) Match Penalty (MP)

If two (2) or more Players are competing for “possession of the puck”, they are not allowed to use the boards to make contact with an opponent to eliminate her from the play, push her into the boards, or pin her along the boards.

A Player, who is stationary, is entitled to that area of the ice. It is up to the opponent to avoid body contact with such a Player. If that Player is stationed between the opponent and the puck, the opponent is obliged to skate around the stationary Player.

If a Player with the puck is skating directly at an opponent who is stationary, it is the obligation of the puck carrier to “avoid contact”. But, if the puck carrier makes every effort to “avoid contact” and the opponent moves into the puck carrier, that opponent will be assessed at least a Minor Penalty (2’) for an “illegal hit”.

Players are allowed to “hold their ground” any time that they have established their position on the ice. No player is required to move out of the way of an oncoming player to avoid a collision. Any move by a Player to step or glide into an opposing Player will be assessed at least a Minor Penalty (2’) for an “illegal hit”

What we saw last summer was that the interpretation of these rules coupled with the growth in ability of the women’s officials created a game that was not bogged down in interference penalties as it used to be, and had a lot of excitement and flow. There were some controversies over calls or non-calls in scrums around the net. But that’s a hockey tradition, and isn’t about to change.

Scores and Schedules

The Hockey Canada site linked above has a tab for the schedule for the entire tournament listed in your time zone. They list scores as well. The official IIHF site has live game centre coverage, links to video (in locations where it’s not rights held by someone else) and scores and standings: https://www.iihf.com/en/events/2022/olympic-w/schedule

How to Watch

In Canada, the broadcast streaming and television rights are held by the CBC. Your local listings are your best bet for on-air coverage times and channels.

CBC has an online streaming schedule for the Olympics. Some of this coverage is also available on Amazon Prime in Canada, and you can also access the CBC streams directly through CBC Gem.

CBC streaming is geoblocked to Canada, American viewers need to use NBC’s services.

Further Reading

The internet is a vast and comprehensive resource of information and opinion, and it is not the role of this hockey blog to be a single silo of information. The Olympics and the IIHF always attracts political discussion. If you are interested in this topic, as opposed to the actual women’s hockey tournament, this is a short and not comprehensive list of news and analysis on this topic:

Maybe boycotts don't work, but that doesn't quite end the debate about the 2022 Olympics in China | CBC News
The debate about whether Canadian athletes should boycott the winter Olympics, scheduled to take place in China in 2022, ultimately rests on a series of questions about the efficacy of such action, the morality of proceeding with the games and even who should get to decide whether or not to launch a boycott.

Is It Time to End the Olympics? - The Atlantic
More and more, the international spectacle has become synonymous with overspending, corruption, and autocratic regimes.

The IIHF took far too long to make the right decision on Belarus
Over six weeks ago, the International Olympic Committee announced a series of "provisional measures" against Belarus.


This article and our coverage of the women’s tournament, in whatever form it ends up taking, is about the game.

Women’s hockey is more popular than it ever has been, and the Olympics are still the biggest event to showcase the talent in the game. And yet, it’s a struggle to find sponsors and to get television coverage at any other time. Women’s hockey needs the Olympics, it’s as simple as that.

Coverage of the women’s game is still almost entirely a labour of love of the game. PPP covers the women’s game because we want to. You’ll find more information about the Olympic tournament on major sports media outlets than you ever will about any other women’s game.

Even for Olympic Gold-Winning Team USA, the Women’s Hockey Pipeline Is Fractured - WSJ
Even though the U.S. women’s hockey team are defending gold medalists, their sport faces an uphill battle at home.