The Beijing 2022 will be the second Winter Olympic Games without professional ice-hockey players, but more teams join in the chase of the titles this time.
The ice-hockey tournament of the Beijing 2022 Olympic Winter Games will take place at National Indoor Stadium and Wukesong Sports Center on February 3-20, with a total of 22 teams – 12 men’s and 10 women’s – to compete.
The National Hockey League (NHL) announced late last year that it won’t send players to the Games due to regular-season schedule having been materially disrupted as a result of increasing COVID-19 cases and a rising number of postponed games.
Therefore, the U.S. men’s squad will be mainly comprised of college players and Americans playing overseas, which will have the team’s competitiveness affected to a certain extent.
That is almost the case for Canadian men’s team, but they still have former NHL player Eric Staal in their roster, who helped the country win the Olympic gold on home ice at Vancouver 2010. And Owen Power, the No. 1 pick in the 2021 NHL Draft, is in the team as well.
The absence of NHL players could be good news for the Finnish men’s team. Finland, with ice hockey as its national sport, has secured Olympic silver and bronze medals but never gold. In recent years, its men’s team, spearheaded by young players, has performed well in international games, thus hailed as the “Dream Team” by its domestic media. The team is reportedly in peak form, aiming at the gold in Beijing 2022.
The Olympic Athletes from Russia (OAR) team claimed PyeongChang 2018 title after beating Germany 4-3 in overtime in the men’s final. In the group stage of the ice hockey event at Beijing 2022, the Russian Olympic Committee (ROC) will face the strong competitors of the Czech Republic, Switzerland and Denmark, while Germany will face Canada and the United States. Both ROC and Germany will have to play at full strength to progress to the knockout stage.
China’s men’s ice hockey team will make their Olympic debut in Beijing and face three of the five top-ranking teams in the world: Canada, the U.S. and Germany. Brandon Yip, the captain of the team, has NHL experience and the Chinese men’s team ranked 32nd in the world.
Women’s ice hockey made their Olympic debut at the 1998 Winter Games in Nagano and the U.S. and Canada combined to win five golds in the following six Winter Olympics. The battles between the U.S. and Canada have always been a highlight in the women’s games.
Joel Johnson, head coach of the U.S. women’s team, said they are focusing on bringing home the gold medal at Beijing 2022.
Finland won the bronze medal in the women’s tournament in PyeongChang. Its coach Juuso Toivola said that the women’s side has improved on speed in recent years and become a stronger competitor compared with powerhouses Canada and the U.S.. According to the format, they will go straight to the top eight with the ROC, the United States, Canada and Switzerland as the seeds.
It has been 12 years since the Chinese women’s ice hockey team finished seventh in Vancouver Winter Olympics. And their best performance in the Winter Olympics was the fourth-place finish in Nagano in 1998. And they will compete with Japan, the Czech Republic, Sweden and Denmark in group B for three tickets to knockout stage in Beijing 2022.
It is worth mentioning that Denmark will make their debut in the Winter Olympics by meeting China in the opener.
Ice hockey is known for its nature of being fast-paced, hard-hitting and thrilling. It is one of the most eye-catching events in the Winter Olympics. Countries like the United States, Canada and Russia boast their rich culture and tradition in ice hockey and have long been strong in international ice hockey competition.