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2010 Winter Olympics Ice Hockey Preview

UPDATE : This article was written over a year ago, as a preview of the Olympic Hockey Tournament. Please check out our updated Olympic Hockey Primer, and our full Podcast Preview of the Olympic Hockey Tournament.

vancouver2The Winter Olympics is a little more than a year away, but its never too early to start planning ahead for the Olympic Ice Hockey Tournament. Ice Hockey is one of those rare team sports like soccer where you have a great international tournament and a number of competitive teams. Soccer has its World Cup and Ice Hockey has the Olympics. Since the United States is usually an afterthought in Soccer, Ice Hockey is one of those rare team events were you can root for the U.S. and they might actually win. Baseball has no real international tournament (and no I don’t count the crappy World Cup they threw together) and Basketball has seen the U.S. dominate (less so in recent years, but still not all that competitive).

How competitive is the Winter Olympic Ice Hockey Tournament? The modern NHL has allowed its athletes to go to the Olympics only three times, in 1998, 2002, and 2006. In 1998 the Czech Republic defeated Russia for gold. In 2002, Canada nipped the United States. And in 2006, Sweden beat Finland. Three different champions and no country has even managed to make the finals twice.

To get you excited, we are previewing the best possible teams for each country. Let it be clear that these teams are the best case scenarios. Certain players have retired from international play, some have chosen not to play in the past, some may simply opt out or be injured. We don’t know for sure what each player will end up deciding a year from now. But countries are already formulating their squads, so we’ll look at the best possible team to give you an idea as to who will show up in Vancouver in 2010.

In this nine part series we’ll profile the “Big 7″, plus have an extra post outlining players to watch on the other squads in the tourney. Per International Rules, each team is allowed to select 23 players, including 3 goalies. Each player is from the NHL unless otherwise noted.

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The 2006 Results:

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2010 Olympic Groups (with IIHF ranking):

Group A
Canada (1)
USA (6)
Switzerland (7)
qualifier (12)

Group B
Russia (2)
Czech Republic (5)
Slovakia (8)
qualifier (11)

Group C
Sweden (3)
Finland (4)
Belarus (9)
qualifier (10)

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