The Olympic Men’s Ice Hockey tournament will begin in PyeongChang, South Korea, on Valentine’s Day and conclude with the Gold Medal game on Saturday, Feb. 25. Here’s a quick look at what to expect from Team USA’s perspective.
1. The Format
The 12 teams will start play in three pools, and each team will play three games within its group in the preliminary round:
Canada, Czech Republic, Switzerland, Korea
Russia, USA, Slovakia, Slovenia
Sweden, Finland, Norway, Germany
The winner of each group, plus the top non-group winner, will receive a bye into the second round of the single-elimination playoffs. The knockout round begins Feb. 20, with quarterfinal games the next day. The semifinals will be played Feb. 23, with the Bronze Medal game to be played Feb. 24 and the Gold Medal game on Feb. 25.
2. The Players
After five straight Olympics contested by NHL players, the best in the world will not be playing for a medal this year. Unable to reach an agreement with the IOC and the IIHF that the NHL was comfortable with, the league chose not to shut its season down this time around.
So who is left? For the most part, teams are made up of former North American pros, veteran pros from the lower European leagues, some KHL veterans and a few young NHL prospects. There will be some recognizable names, however. Former NHL stars Pavel Datsyuk and Ilya Kovalchuk will play for the Russian team, and the U.S. team has some familiar faces we’ll get to in a minute.
3. Get to Know Team USA
Without access to the best players from the U.S., USA Hockey has put together a team ranging in age from 39 (captain Brian Gionta) to 20 (NCAA star Troy Terry). Of the 25 players on the roster, 23 have played for the U.S. in international competition, but only Gionta is a former Olympian. In fact, he led the 2006 Olympics in scoring, but the U.S. was eliminated in the quarterfinals.
While Gionta is the most recent full-time NHL player, having been a regular just last season, he isn’t the only American with a long NHL résumé. Defenseman James Wisniewski has played in more than 500 NHL games and has led Team USA to success before as a member of the team that gave the U.S. its first-ever gold medal at the World Junior Championships in 2004.
If you are looking for future NHL stars, keep an eye on Terry (currently playing for defending NCAA champ Denver), Jordan Greenway (Boston University), Will Borgen (St. Cloud State) and Ryan Donato (Harvard).
4. Behind the Bench
University of Wisconsin coach Tony Granato will coach the U.S. team, and he is no stranger to the Olympic stage. Before a 12-year NHL career, Granato was a member of the 1988 Olympic team after playing four seasons at Wisconsin. Granato tallied eight points in six games during the 1988 Games in Calgary, but the Americans went 3–3 and finished seventh. Granato will no doubt be coaching with a bit of a heavy heart after the passing of team general manager Jim Johannson on Jan. 21. Not only did Granato and Johannson work together to choose Team USA, they played together at Wisconsin for three seasons and were teammates on the 1988 Olympic team.
5. Captain Clutch
While Gionta is by far the most experienced player on the roster and captain for good reason, don’t be surprised if it’s the youngest player — 20-year-old Troy Terry — who steps up in a big moment. A junior at the University of Denver, Terry helped the Pioneers win the national title last season after starring for Team USA at the 2017 World Junior Championships. He scored three straight shootout goals, including the winner, to defeat Russia in the semifinals, and then helped the U.S. claim the gold medal with the only goal in the shootout of the final against Canada.