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2014 Sochi Olympics Winter Games: A Brief History of Ice Hockey at the Games

Yahoo Contributor Network

Ice hockey is one the cornerstone events at the Olympic Winter Games.

The first ice hockey competition in the Olympics was actually at the 1920 Summer Games, when Canada took the gold medal in Antwerp, Belgium. A cold-weather sport, ice hockey naturally moved to the Winter Games in 1924, and has been a mainstay of the Olympiad ever since.

The gold medal in ice hockey was determined by a round-robin format where teams would earn points for victories until 1988. This system rarely allowed for a true gold medal game, as nations often clinched a gold medal before their final game.

In 1992, the format changed to a round-robin competition followed by an eight-team tournament to decide the medals. This change has greatly increased the excitement and parity of the event, as four nations have captured gold since 1992, which is the same amount of nations that were able to do so between 1924-1988.

1998 was the first year that women's ice hockey was contested at the Winter Games. The women's competition follows the same format as the men's event, with the only difference being that there are only four teams in the medal tournament. The 1998 Games were also the first in which NHL players competed for their countries in men's ice hockey.

Some of the most memorable moments in ice hockey at the Winter Games include the "Miracle on Ice" which occurred when the United States' men's team defeated a heavily-favored USSR squad in the 1980 Olympics at Lake Placid, and Canada's overtime victory over Team USA to win the gold at the 2010 Winter Games.

Historical powers in ice hockey include Canada, who has seven gold medals on the men's side and three golds in the women's competition, Sweden, and until 1992, the USSR.

Shaun Heidrick is a Yahoo Contributor who has followed the Winter Olympics since the 1988 Games in Calgary.

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