2018 Winter Olympics: Understanding ice hockey and speed skating

Learn how Olympic ice hockey differs from the NHL

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The first recorded use of the word hockey is in a 1773 book about sports, but there's evidence that King Edward III of England mentioned it during a 1363 proclamation.

Short track speed skating has been featured in multiple Winter Games but had only become an official sport at the 1992 Winter Games in Albertville, France. Men's long track speed skating has been a part of the Winter Games since its inception and women's long track speed skating was added during the 1960 games.

There are eight events for short track speed skating being held at the Gangneung Ice Arena. Ice hockey competitions will take place at the Gangneung Hockey Centre and the Kwandog Hockey Centre. Long track speed skating will have 14 events at the Gangneung Oval.

Ice Hockey

Men's dates: Feb. 14-25
Women's dates: Feb. 10-22

Here's how it's different from the NHL:

Olympic hockey teams are allowed a maximum of 20 skaters and two goalies for their games, while the NHL can have a maximum of 18 skaters and two goalies. 

In the event of a tie, the NHL uses a shootout to determine the winner during the regular season games. During playoffs, teams play overtime until a goal is scored. If there's a tie during an Olympic hockey game, there are ten minutes of sudden death, where play ends as soon as one team scores. If a goal isn't scored during these ten minutes, the game progresses into a shootout. 

In the event of a penalty shot being called, the NHL uses the victim of the foul to take the shot, unless they're injured, but in an Olympic game, any team player from the victim's team can be used to take the shot.

Fighting results in both players receiving a penalty. If a player's helmet is knocked off and they do not engage in fighting, but continue to play after losing their helmet, that play receives a penalty. Players must firmly secure their helmets with the chin strap before resuming play. Only eight hockey fights have occurred during the Winter Games since 1960.

Olympic ice hockey is played on a larger rink than the NHL, with differences to where the goal and blue lines lay, the size of the neutral and offensive zones and even the positions of the nets.

Short track speed skating

Men's 500 meter dates: Feb. 20, 7 p.m. & Feb. 22, 7 p.m.
Women's 500 meter dates: Feb. 10, 7 p.m. & Feb. 13, 7 p.m.

Men's 1,000 meter dates: Feb. 13, 7 p.m. & Feb. 17, 7 p.m.
Women's 1,000 meter dates: Feb. 20, 7 p.m. & Feb. 22, 7 p.m.

Men's 1,500 meter date: Feb. 10, 7 p.m.
Women's 1,500 meter date: Feb. 17, 7 p.m.

Here's how it works:

Short track skating has been compared to NASCAR, with athletes racing each other over multiple laps around an ice rink. Racers can be disqualified for deliberately blocking, charging, or pushing another competitor, slowing down unnecessarily or by colluding with other racers to affect the race. 

Racers compete against each other, not for the best time. Due to the track size and the number of racers competing, strategy is key. Countries typically send their skaters with fast response times, rather than their fastest skaters. 

For the 500 and 1,000 meter races, 32 skaters start with eight races of four skaters each. Two skaters from each race advance to the next round where four groups of four skaters race. The top two racers from this round advance to the next.

For the semifinals, two races of four skaters compete. The first and second place contestants from each race in this round advance into the A final, while the third and fourth place contestants advance into the B final. Medals are awards to the top three finishers in the A final. 

The 1,500-meter race starts with 36 skaters and has fewer rounds. The first round is six races of six skaters each where the top three from each advance. The remaining 18 skaters race in three groups of six, with the top two from each group going to the A final and the third and fourth contestants going into the B final. Medals are awards to the top three finishers in the A final. 

Short track speed skating -- Relay

Men's dates: Feb. 13, 7 p.m. & Feb. 22, 7 p.m.
Women's dates: Feb. 10, 7 p.m. & Feb. 20, 7 p.m.

Here's how it works:

The short track speed skate relay starts with eight teams of four skaters. The men will race 45 laps around the rink for a total distance of 5,000 meters and women will race 27 laps for a total of 3,000 meters. 

Unlike typical relays, skaters can be switched at any time, except for the final two laps. The final two laps must be raced by one skater, unless they become injured. Each team member is required to skate at least once.

The fastest two teams advance to the A finals and the third and fourth fastest teams advance to the B finals. The A finals include one race of four teams which will determine places one through four, while the B finals will determine races five through eight. 

Long track speed skating

Men's 500 meter date: Feb. 19, 8 p.m.
Women's 500 meter date: Feb. 18, 8 p.m.

Men's 1,000 meter date: Feb. 23, 7 p.m.
Women's 1,000 meter date: Feb. 14, 7 p.m.

Men's 1,500 meter date: Feb. 13, 8 p.m.
Women's 1,500 meter date: Feb. 12, 9:30 p.m.

Women's 3,000 meter date: Feb. 10, 8 p.m.

Men's 5,000 meter date: Feb. 11, 4 p.m.
Women's 5,000 meter date: Feb. 16, 8 p.m.

Men's 10,000 meter date: Feb. 15, 8 p.m.

Here's how it works:

As the name suggests, long track speed skating takes place on a longer track than short track speed skating. While short track takes place on a standard ice rink, long track speed skaters compete on a 400-meter loop built specifically for the sport.

Each race has two skaters racing to not only beat one another, but to finish with a time faster than any other skater in the other races. 

Lanes, similar to those on a running track, are used in the races. Racers are required to change lanes once a lap so as to not give one racer an advantage by sticking with the shorter inside lane.

Medals will be awarded to the finishers with the three fastest times in each event.

Long track speed skating -- Team pursuit

Men's dates: Feb. 18, 8 p.m. & Feb. 21, 8 p.m.
Women's dates: Feb. 19, 8 p.m. & Feb. 21, 8 p.m.

Here's how it works:

Two teams of three skaters race each other on the loop at once. Men will skate eight laps for a total of 3,200 meters and women will skate six laps for a total of 2,400 meters.

A team wins when all three of their racers cross the finish line before the other team's three cross. The races are single-elimination, with the winning team advancing to the next round.

In the finals, the top four teams race each other for potential medals.

Long track speed skating -- Mass start

Men's date: Feb. 24, 8 p.m.
Women's date: Feb. 24, 8 p.m.

Here's how it works:

Mass start has 16 laps, with up to 24 potential skaters racing each other at the same time. 

There are three intermediate sprints, taking place after laps 4, 8 and 12. During these sprints, the first, second and third skaters to cross the finish line will receive 5, 3 or 1 points respectively. 

The final sprint is worth 60, 40 and 20 points for the first three skaters.    

The player who finishes with the most sprint points wins the mass start. Due to this unique scoring method, it's possible for the fourth place winner to have been the fifth to have crossed the finish line.