Olympic ice hockey at Beijing 2022: Top five things to know

Medal favourites, competition format, venue information and more!

By Will Imbo

Ice hockey made its Olympic debut at the 1920 Summer Olympics in Antwerp, but was permanently moved to the Winter Olympic programme in 1924, and has featured at every Winter Games since.

There are only two events in the ice hockey competition in Beijing, but it remains one of the most popular sports at the Winter Olympics.

Take a look at our preview for ice hockey at Beijing 2022, including the history of the sport, the top teams and players to watch, venue information, and more!

Top Olympic ice hockey players at Beijing 2022

With the likely return of NHL superstars to Olympic hockey, fans of the sport will be in for a treat at Beijing 2022. Canada, winners of nine gold medals, will be heavily favoured for both the men's and women's competition.

Two-time Winter Olympic gold medalist and three-time Stanely Cup champion Sidney Crosby and Edmonton Oilers captain Connor McDavid will likely headline a star-studded Canadian team seeking redemption after finishing a surprising third in PyeongChang.

However, they will more than likely have to deal with their old nemesis the United States more than once in their pursuit for gold in Beijing (Canada and the United States have been drawn together in Group A). The U.S. can call upon a talented pool of players themselves, including Chicago Blackhawks right winger and 2010 silver medalist Patrick Kane and Toronto Maple Leafs center Auston Matthews.

And don't count out PyeongChang silver medalists Germany either - especially with Edmonton Oilers center Leon Draisaitl leading the attack.

Barring a major upset, the women's tournament will come down to the gold medal match between Canada and the United States. This is a fairly safe prediction, given that since women's ice hockey was added to the Winter Olympics programme in 1998, all but one final has been contested between the two nations at the Games (Torino 2006, when Canada beat Sweden 4-1).

Canada leads the all-time Winter Olympic series 3 - 2, but the U.S. team, with 2018 gold medalists Hilary Knight, Brianna Decker, and Kendall Coyne Schofield likely returning to Beijing, are the defending Olympic champions.

Even so, Canada boasts considerable firepower of their own, with three-time Olympic medalist Marie-Philip Poulin, 2018 silver medalist Sarah Nurse, and two-time Olympic medalist Jocelyne Larocque notable stars of their squad.

Olympic ice hockey schedule at Beijing 2022

The ice hockey competition will take place from 3 February - 20 February 2022.

Olympic ice hockey venue at Beijing 2022

Ice hockey will take place at the Wukesong Sports Centre. Designed and built for the 2008 Beijing Games (where it staged the basketball competition), the multipurpose venue was outfitted with a flexible hockey rink in 2016 - which can be converted back into a basketball court in under six hours.

The stadium has a capacity of 18,000.

Olympic ice hockey competition format at Beijing 2022

The ice hockey competition at the Winter Olympics features two events:

Men's Tournament

The men's tournament consists of 12 teams split into three groups:

Group A: Canada, USA, Germany, China

Group B: ROC, Czech Republic, Switzerland, Denmark

Group C: Finland, Sweden, Slovakia, Latvia

Qualification for the men's tournament was determined by the IIHF World Ranking following the 2019 Men's Ice Hockey World Championships.

The best four teams from an overall 12-team ranking – the group winners and the second-ranked team with the best record – will advance to the quarter-finals (where the competition will move to the knockout phase) while the other teams will play a qualification playoff game.

Women's Tournament

The women's tournament will feature 10 teams split between two groups.

Group A: USA, Canada, Finland, ROC, Switzerland

Group B: Japan, China, Qualifier 1, Qualifier 2, Qualifier 3

Qualification for the women's tournament was determined by selecting the top six ranked nations using their seeding for ranking points in unplayed tournaments in 2020 (due to the cancellation of the 2020 Women's Ice Hockey World Championships). Qualifiers one, two, and three will be the winners of the Final Qualification tournaments in November.

The five teams from Group A and the top three teams from Group B will advance to the quarter-finals, where the competition moves to the knockout phase.

Olympic ice hockey history

Ice hockey originated in Canada in the early 19th century, based on several similar stick-and-ball games played in Europe. The word “hockey” comes from the old French word “hocquet”, meaning “stick”.

The first Olympic ice hockey tournament took place at the 1920 Summer Olympics in Antwerp, Belgium, with a men's competition. At the time, organized international ice hockey was still relatively new - so new, in fact, that the International Ice Hockey Federation considers the 1920 tournament to be the first Ice Hockey World Championship.

The sport was moved to the Winter Olympics programme following the 1920 Games, and was a part of the inaugural Winter Games in Chamonix, France in 1924.

Canada has dominated ice hockey at the Winter Olympics, winning 22 medals - including 13 golds. Canada won gold in six of the first seven Winter Games, but their dominance was ended at the 1956 Games in Cortina by the Soviet Union, who proceeded to win the men's tournament at seven of the next nine Games. The Soviet Union were famously beaten in the gold medal match by the United States at the 1980 Lake Placid Games - a moment that has gone down in Olympic and sporting history as 'The Miracle on Ice'.

A women's tournament was added to the Winter Olympic programme in 1998 at the Nagano Games, and the event has been dominated by Canada ever since, winning four golds out of a possible six. Their closest challenger has been the United States, who have won the competition twice (beating Canada in the final both times).

Canadians Hayley Wickenheiser and Jayna Hefford are the only two athletes to have won five medals - four gold and one silver - in ice hockey at the Winter Olympics. Vladislav Tretiak (ROC) is the most successful male hockey player in Winter Olympics history, having won three golds and one silver.