A (too early?) look at the Olympic hockey tournaments
Some takeaways from the release of the men's and women's skeds
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Olympic hockey is coming into focus
Is it too early to talk Olympic hockey? I say no. The schedules for the men's and women's tournaments in Beijing were released yesterday. So let's dive into them and dole out some initial thoughts:
How it works: The first games are on the night of Wednesday, Feb. 2 in Canadian time zones — two days before the opening ceremony. The 10 teams are split into two groups of five for the round-robin stage. Because international women's hockey is so top-heavy, all the best teams are grouped together and they all advance to the quarter-finals no matter what. The top three teams from the other group will join them. The quarters take place from Feb. 10-12 in Canadian time zones. The semis are Super Bowl Sunday, Feb. 13 at 11:10 p.m. ET and Monday, Feb. 14 at 8:10 a.m. ET. The gold-medal game — likely to be another showdown between Canada and the defending champion United States — is Wednesday, Feb. 16 at 11:10 p.m. ET.
- Wed., Feb. 2 at 11:10 p.m. ET vs. Switzerland
- Fri., Feb. 4 at 11:10 p.m. ET vs. Finland
- Sun., Feb. 6 at 11:10 p.m. ET vs. Russia
- Mon., Feb. 7 at 11:10 p.m. ET vs. United States
Thoughts: Everyone will have the Canada-U.S. game circled on their calendars, but their round-robin matchups tend to be glorified exhibitions. Neither team wants to show its rival too much when they're probably going to face off for all the marbles the following week. Don't sleep on the Finland game: they upset Canada in the semifinals at the 2019 world championship and then appeared to stun the U.S. for gold before their overtime goal was disallowed by video replay and the Americans went on to win in a shootout. The Finns took bronze at this year's worlds in Calgary.
How it works: The 12 teams are split into three groups of four for the round-robin stage The top team in each group plus the best overall second-place team advance directly to the quarter-finals. The others can still reach the quarters by winning a single-elimination playoff game. Those happen the night of Feb. 14 (hope your Valentine likes hockey) and the following morning. The quarter-finals are Feb. 15 (at night) and 16 (morning). The semis are Thursday, Feb. 17 at 11:10 p.m ET and Friday, Feb. 18 at 8:10 a.m. ET. The gold-medal game is Saturday, Feb. 19 at 11:10 p.m. ET. Start hydrating now.
- Thurs., Feb. 10 at 8:10 a.m. ET vs. Germany
- Fri., Feb. 11 at 11:10 p.m. ET vs. United States
- Sun., Feb. 13 at 8:10 a.m. ET vs. China
Thoughts: NHL players are back — assuming the pandemic doesn't cause them and/or the league to exercise their option to bail. Against Germany, Canada could be facing 2019-20 NHL MVP Leon Draisaitl of the Edmonton Oilers, and 2020 third-overall draft pick Tim Stützle of the Ottawa Senators. Germany also has a couple of solid goalies in 2021 Vezina Trophy finalist Philipp Grubauer (formerly of the Colorado Avalanche, now with the expansion Seattle Kraken) and veteran Thomas Greiss (Detroit). Canada's matchup with the U.S., whose roster should include reigning NHL goal-scoring champ Auston Matthews and former MVP Patrick Kane, will likely decide who wins the group and the direct ticket to the quarter-finals that comes with it.
One more takeaway: Super Bowl Sunday is going to be extra super. When the NFL added an extra week of regular-season games this year, it pushed the Super Bowl to the second Sunday in February — right in the middle of the Olympics. This was more than fine with U.S. Olympic rights holder NBC, which actually traded Super Bowls with another network so it could have both properties at the same time — and sell them as a package deal to advertisers. My initial thought was that NBC would make sure a big men's hockey matchup (say, the U.S. vs. Canada) was scheduled for right after the Big Game to entice the massive football audience to stick around (hey, better than the premiere of some new medical drama starring Rob Lowe or whatever). Given that the Super Bowl usually ends around 10 p.m. ET, which will be 11 a.m. in Beijing, it was certainly possible. But that's not the case. Still, a Canadian men's hockey game at 8 a.m. ET and a women's hockey semifinal at 11:10 p.m. ET (possibly involving Canada) will make for a tasty Super Bowl sandwich.
WATCH | Projecting Canada's men's roster:
The Blue Jays are doubling their crowds. Just in time for a big series against the Yankees, the Ontario government is reportedly set to allow 30,000 fans to attend Jays home games starting next week. That's up from the current 15,000 max, and the increased capacity will take effect starting with the opener of a three-game series vs. New York on Tuesday. After that, Toronto closes the regular season with three games at home vs. Baltimore. But first, the Jays need to take care of business this weekend in Minnesota, where the lowly Twins beat them 7-2 last night. The loss dropped Toronto a game behind the Yankees for the second and final AL wild-card berth, and three behind Boston for the top spot.
Canada picked up another Olympic figure skating spot. Roman Sadovsky's eighth-place finish today at a competition in Germany gave his country a second entry in the men's event in Beijing. The first was clinched by Keegan Messing's career-best sixth-place finish at the world championships in March. Messing and Sadovsky won't necessarily be the ones to fill the Olympic spots they earned. That'll be decided after the Canadian championships in Ottawa in January. Canada also has three ice dance teams, two pairs and one women's entry for the Olympics. Read more about Sadovsky's performance today here.
Coming up on CBC Sports
Here's what you can watch online and on TV this weekend:
That Curling Show: Host Devin Heroux and legendary skip Colleen Jones return for tonight's season premiere. They'll be talking about the start of Canada's Olympic qualifying tournaments and having lots of granite-related fun. Join them live on the CBC Olympics Twitter and Facebook feeds or on the CBC Sports YouTube page at 7 p.m. ET.
Live sports: Rugby sevens, triathlon, skateboarding and BMX are among the sports being live streamed on CBCSports.ca, the CBC Sports app and CBC Gem. See the full schedule here.
Road to the Olympic Games: Saturday's show features the FIBA 3x3 Basketball World Tour event in Montreal and the World Rugby Sevens Series stop in Edmonton. Watch it from 2-6 p.m. ET on the CBC TV network, CBCSports.ca, the CBC Sports app and CBC Gem. Sunday's show features rugby sevens. Watch it on CBC TV from 3-4 p.m. in your local time or stream it from 2-3 p.m. ET.
Something else to check out
The 4% Rising newsletter: A study done a few years back found that only four per cent of traditional media coverage was devoted to women's sports. Hence the name of this newsletter focused on growing the audience by telling you when and where to watch women's sports on TV and online. Sample the latest edition and subscribe here.
You're up to speed. Talk to you tomorrow.