Australia and Olympic Ice Hockey
Australia has qualified for ice hockey at the Winter Olympic Games - competing at Squaw Valley in 1960. The team scored nine goals and finished ninth, conceding 83 goals in six games. The valiant Australian team did their best for Australia: Ben Acton (Capt), Ron Arness, David Cunningham, Noel Derrick, Alfred Dewhurst, Vic Ekberg, Basil Hansen, Clive Hitch, Russell Jones, Noel McLoughlin, John Nicholas, Peter Parrott, Ken Pawsey, Robert Reid, John Thomas, Steve Tikal, Ivo Vesely, Ken Wellman and William McEachern as coach.
Although the national league is developing in Australia it may be another few Games before the local stars realise their Olympic dreams.
The first Olympic Games to include ice hockey for men were the Antwerp Summer Games in 1920. Four years later it was part of the first Winter Olympic Games in Chamonix and has remained on the program ever since.
Women’s ice hockey made its debut at the Winter Olympics at Nagano 1998. In another first for the sport, professional players from the world's premier competition, the National Hockey League of North America, played in the Nagano Games.
The Canadian men’s and women’s teams are defending champions after delighting the home crowd in Vancouver in 2010. Surprisingly, the United States have not won the men's tournament since Lake Placid 1980.
In ice hockey, two teams - each comprised of six players on the ice at one time - use a stick to hit a puck into the goal. The aim is to score more goals than the opposition. Players can be substituted at any time but the team of six players on the ice usually comprises of one goalkeeper, two defenders, two wings and one centre. Fewer players can be on the ice as a result of penalties: a goalkeeper can be replaced by a skater during a delayed penalty, or at any other time of the game, at the team's risk.
Men’s teams compete with a squad of 23 players (20 players and three goal keepers), while women’s teams have 20 players (18 players and two goal keepers). At the Olympic Winter Games, women compete in an eight-team tournament whereas men compete in a 12-team tournament. Most notably, body checking is not allowed in women's ice hockey.
A regular game consists of three 20-minute periods, with a 15-minute intermission after the first and second periods. Teams change ends for each period. If a tie occurs in a medal-round game in which a winner must be determined, a five-minute sudden-victory overtime period is played. In the gold medal game, a 20-minute sudden-victory period is played subsequent to another 15-minute intermission. In the case of a tie after any sudden-victory period, a game-winning penalty shoot competition takes place to determine the winner.
The competition is comprised of two phases, a preliminary round and a play-off round. The first is a round robin format with two groups of six teams for the Men’s tournament and two groups of four teams for the Women’s tournament. Each team plays the other teams in their group once.
Advancing to the play-off round are the top four ranked teams in each group for the men and the top two teams from each group for the women. There are quarterfinals, semi-finals and games for the gold/silver and bronze medals.