Wednesday, 14 March 2007

Five Rings of Approval

The IIHF, NHL, and NHLPA have come to a tentative agreement that will see NHL players participate in the upcoming 2010 Olympic Winter Games in Vancouver, British Columbia for their respective nations. All it needs now is the rubber stamp from the IIHF's top brass in order to be set in stone. According to TSN, the tournament, if approved, will look as follows:

- The tourney will be played over a 13-day period from Tuesday Feb. 16 to Sunday Feb. 28. NHL regular season games will be played on Saturday Feb. 13 and Sunday Feb. 14 with players traveling to Vancouver on either the Sunday or the Monday before the tourney begins.

- All but two of the 30 games will be played at GM Place. One wild-card playoff game and one quarter-final playoff game will be played at the University of British Columbia.

- There will be a total of 12 teams in the tourney with rosters of 20 skaters and three goalies. A minimum of 15 skaters and two goalies must be declared on the night before the tourney begins. Only 20 skaters and two goalies may dress for a game.

- Immediately following the 2008 World Championships, the top nine hockey countries in the world, according to the IIHF's 2008 World Ranking, will be granted automatic entry into the Olympic tourney.

- For countries ranked between Nos. 19 and 30, there will be a pre-Olympic qualification tournament in November of 2008. The top three teams from this qualifier will advance to another pre-Olympic qualifier in February of 2009, which will feature countries ranked Nos. 10 through 18. The top three qualifiers from that event will be the 10th, 11th and 12th teams granted entry to the Olympic tourney.

- The 12 Olympic teams will be divided into three groups of four. Group A will consist of the 1st, 6th, 7th and 12th ranked teams. Group B will be the 2nd, 5th, 8th and 11th ranked teams. And Group C will be the 3rd, 4th, 9th and 10th ranked teams.

- Each team will play three games against teams within its own division. Following the conclusion of the preliminary round robin, teams will be seeded one through 12, based on the following criteria: higher position in the standings; higher number of points; goal differential; goals for; and, 2009 IIHF World Ranking. The IIHF's three-point system will be in effect for the round-robin games. Following the preliminary round robin, the top four teams – the three Group winners plus the second-place team with the highest point total – will get a bye into the quarter-finals. The remaining eight teams will play sudden-death Wild Card playoff games (No. 5 vs. No. 12; No. 6 vs. No. 11; No. 7 vs. No. 10; and, No. 8 vs. No. 9). The four winners from the Wild Card games will advance to meet the four 'bye' teams in the sudden-death quarter final games. The four quarter final winners will advance to the semi-finals with the two semi-final winners going into the gold medal game. The two losers from the semi-finals will play in the bronze medal game.

- Games will be played on all but three days during the tourney. There will be no games played on Monday Feb. 22 (between the preliminary round robin and the wild card playoff games) and Thursday Feb. 25 (between the quarter finals and semi-finals). The bronze medal game will be played Saturday Feb. 27 with the gold medal game on Sunday Feb. 28.

- NHL players would return to their respective NHL clubs as they are eliminated from the tourney. No firm date has been set yet for the resumption of the NHL regular season, but it's expected to re-start no later than the Tuesday following the Olympics.

Personally, I cannot see how this wouldn't be approved. The Turin Olympic Games followed the same basic format. All I know is that I am going to make plans for 2010 because I want to see Sid the Kid play on the international scene in person before I die. I've seen Marc-Andre Fleury play, I've seen Wayne Gretzky play, I've seen Jaromir Jagr play. I have yet to see Sidney Crosby play, and it is on my list of things to do before I die.

Until 2010, keep your sticks on the ice!

No comments: