Ask Sports: What are the rule differences between NHL and Olympic hockey?

02/15/2014 11:35 AM

08/08/2014 10:22 AM

What are the rule differences between NHL and Olympic hockey?

There are a few minor differences between the games, but many of the major ones have been eliminated over the years.

One difference that will be apparent to viewers in the United States is the larger ice surface. While the length of the rink is generally the same, the Olympic ice rink is about 13 1/2 feet wider. This larger surface allows for more wide-open play.

Olympic ice also lacks the trapezoid behind the goal. In the NHL, that’s the only spot a goalkeeper can handle the puck behind the goal line without receiving a penalty.

The biggest difference in the two is the zero tolerance of fighting at the international level. While fighting receives a 5-minute penalty in North America – with further penalties possible based on escalation – it is forbidden in the Olympics.

A player who fights receives an automatic game misconduct or a match penalty, in addition to the normal 5-minute major.

There are also smaller differences in game play including no-touch icing and a slight tweak to faceoffs. In the NHL the visiting team’s player has to put his stick on the ice first for faceoffs. In international play it’s the attacking player in that portion of the ice.

Saturday’s U.S.-Russia game highlighted some of the differences that one might not have noticed otherwise:

• Russia’s go-ahead goal that was wiped out in the third period was disallowed because “the net (had) been displaced from its normal position, or the frame of the goal net is not completely flat on the ice” – per the IIHF rule book. The NHL gives much more leeway in that situation and the goal would likely have been allowed upon review.
• While T.J. Oshie was the hero of Saturday’s game, going 4 for 6 in the shootout, including scoring the game-winner, he would not have been able to take more than one shootout chance in the NHL. “No player may shoot twice until everyone who is eligible has shot,” the NHL rule book says – and that means every player not serving a game misconduct or a match penalty, so 18 skaters worth.
• A shootout victory is worth two points in Olympic standings, less than the three points a team receives for a regulation victory. The shootout loser receives a single point. In the NHL all victories are worth two points, but a shootout or overtime loser receives one point.

Are there NHL players on every Olympic hockey team?

Yes, even Austria, a team that has a minus-10 goal differential through two games, has two.

The big teams – the U.S., Canada, Sweden, Czech Republic, Finland and Russia – have rosters filled with players from the NHL and its Russian-based equivalent, the KHL.

Even the smaller teams have at least one or two NHL players. Anze Kopitar, one of the Kings’ best players when they won the Stanley Cup in 2012, is on Slovenia. Finland’s Teemu Selanne, who plays for the Ducks, is in his sixth Olympics at 43.

And then there’s one CHL player – Norway’s Henrik Odegaard, who has played in a visiting team’s sweater at Intrust Bank Arena for the Missouri Mavericks.

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