This year’s Olympics are very similar to 2018’s because NHL hockey players didn’t participate in them either, meaning some of the best and brightest stars couldn’t go to Beijing. Concerns over the COVID-19 pandemic — along with a wave of cancellations across the league — have forced the NHL to ban its players from the 2022 Winter Olympics.
One of the most spectacular and unpredictable sports, it kept spectators around the world intrigued until the last days of the Olympics. We’re talking about hockey, of course. The winning trio consists of Finland, Russia and Slovakia. The Swedes, surprisingly for many who bet on sports, took only fourth place. But where are America and Canada?
This year 12 teams, divided into three groups of four, participated in the Olympic tournament. Eight countries qualified based on the 2019 results, while China automatically became the host despite only ranking 32nd in the world. The last three teams qualified for the tournament by winning the play-in game.
The Beijing 2022 group stage began with each team playing one game against the other group members. After these games, the top teams in each group and the highest-ranked team in second place entered the quarter-finals. The remaining eight countries met in the qualifying round, with the four winners also entering the quarter-finals.
Weaknesses of the Canadian team
In 1/4, Canada was to play against Sweden. In the first period, the match was highly boring and to no result. In the second half, not much has changed, but the game has become livelier and more dynamic. The denouement was in the last period, where the first goal was scored by the leader of the Swedish team, Lucas Wallmark, and the second goal was scored by captain Anton Lander into an empty net. Thus, the Canadians were eliminated without scoring a single goal. Fans and experts did not expect such an outcome of events; they made their bets on hockey based on entirely different forecasts.
Some Canadian fans did not expect great results from their team, but it was a real shock for the majority. After all, last year, the team that represented the country at the World Cup in 2021 consisted of young and energetic athletes. Gerard Gallant also helped his team a lot.
This time, the composition was radically different. There was a minimal choice in the NCAA: some were too young, and some could not go due to the contract restrictions. There are many reasons, but the result is that the Olympic team was weak. The weaknesses of this team were immediately noticeable: the goalkeepers, the average age of the players and much more. In terms of age, it was tough for the players to keep up the pace of their young opponents. The tournament structure also played a significant role. They started with easy games with the Chinese team, and then couldn’t get themselves together at the right moment and dropped out, and that’s despite the fact that the team had a couple of excellent and well-known players – this is far not the most important thing at the Olympics.
The Americans were simply unlucky
The American team has had varying results for the past four years. Experts argued that it is necessary to compose the Olympic team of young and talented students for a better game. The Ice Hockey Federation also did not pay attention to the legendary European players, the emphasis was placed on experienced local athletes. These decisions led to an unsuccessful performance at the Pyeongchang Olympics. Interestingly, the players that performed the best were the students.
It all started in January when college star defenseman Jake Sanderson stayed in Los Angeles due to the coronavirus protocol. And the veterans Steven Kampfer and Andy Miele had to self-isolate in the athletes’ village after they tested positive upon arrival.
It is difficult to say what results the team would have shown if the Federation had sent more experienced hockey players. By the way, that is what almost all of their rivals did. At first, the Americans performed well, but they got highly unlucky with their opponents. One of them was Slovakia: their head coach also recruited young athletes and trained them in an aggressive and dynamic game. American viewers saw a team that plays the same way as their own. The team’s head coach is confident that the reason for the failures is the lack of experience of young players. The guys have not yet had time to play and prove their worth at the junior and world championships. Of course, America could have got better results, but every game is a matter of chance.
New star of Slovakia
Now let’s look at the winners of the Olympics. As mentioned above, these were Finland, Russia and Slovakia. The Russian team, composed of KHL talents,
was a popular choice to win gold. However, they ended up getting the silver medal as the Finns got their first-ever Olympic hockey title by beating Russian athletes 2-1.
Before Beijing, Finland competed for gold in men’s hockey games twice but lost both times – once to the Soviet Union in 1988 and then to Sweden in 2006. However, 2022 became a happy year for Fins. They went undefeated in their six games at this year’s Olympics, and although it is impossible to call them dominant in the ice rink, they deserved to take the gold home.
But the most surprising and unexpected game was for the bronze medal. 17-year-old genius Juraj Slavkovsky brought the award to his team. He will likely be selected in the first round of the upcoming 2022 NHL Entry Draft. The athlete outplayed all male players competing in Beijing, scoring seven goals, and was recognised as the tournament’s most valuable player. And – the cherry on the cake – he led Slovakia to its first hockey medal at the Olympics. “We believe in him,” said Slovakian head coach Craig Ramsay, after the player scored two goals in the bronze medal match. According to the coach, they questioned whether Slavkovsky could just score a goal, and he did it excellently.