Men's Olympic Hockey Tournament Format

February 4, 2010

The Men’s Olympic Hockey Tournament at the Vancouver 2010 Olympics has taken on a somewhat unique format. And when I say “unqiue”, I mean you’re going to need at least an understanding of basic calculus to follow along. It is not simple…

So settle in, get out your pen & paper, and take some notes as I do my best to walk you through it.

Group Play
The tournament starts out simple enough, 12 teams divided into 3 pools. Each pool will play a round-robin, giving each team three games. The pools are based on the 2008 World Rankings:
Pool A – Canada, USA, Switzerland, Norway
Pool B – Russia, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Latvia
Pool C – Sweden, Finland, Belarus, Germany

After the completion of the round robin teams will be ranked from #1 to #12, according to the following criteria:

  • Higher position in the group
  • Higher number of points
  • Better goal difference
  • Higher number of goals scored for
  • Better 2009 IIHF World Ranking
Those teams ranked #1-#4 will proceed directly to the quarterfinals. Based on the above criteria, this effectily means that the three group winners, plus one ‘wild card’ team will receive that bye. This might seem like a footnote, but in relatity, it will have a huge impact on the round robin.

Given how the schedule has been set up, the ‘favorites’ in each group don’t play each other until their third game. Barring upsets, this may set up a situation where 6 teams enter the final day of the round-robin (Feb 21st) at 2-0…with those 6 teams playing off against each other. This will create a scenario where the ‘top loser’ of those games will still get a bye, most likely based on criteria #3 – Better Goal Differential.

With that likely tiebreaker based on goal differential, how many teams are going to try their best to absolutely plow under the weaker teams? In Canada’s situation, winning over Norway 9-0 instead of 8-0 may be the difference between getting a bye to the quarterfinal versus being sent to the qualification round

Qualification Round
Speaking of which, those teams that are ranked #5-#12 when its all said and done will face off in the ‘Qualification Round’. Team #5 plays Team #12, #6 v. Team #11 and so forth. The losers are done...

Quarterfinals and On
The winners of these games meet up with the teams who received a bye to the quarterfinals (#1-#4). Its important to note that there is no ‘re-seeding’ at any point…so if Team #12 upsets Team #5 in the qualification round, Team #4 still plays the winner of that game.

From here, it’s a single-knockout formula, with the exception of the semi-final losers who of course face off in the bronze medal game.

Got it? Good…


GK 1 February 12, 2010 at 12:25 AM  

THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR CLEARING THIS UP! I've been looking everywhere for this info. I got some of it from other sites, but you gave me ALL the info I needed (most importantly, how there is no re-seeding for the Quarterfinals.) Great work!

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This blog is the online chronicle of our adventures leading up to, and including, the Vancouver 2010 Olympic Winter Games. We hope to give you a little insight into what went into planning our trip and a first hand look at the Games from the ground in Vancouver.

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