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Winter Olympics 101: Ice Hocky and Curling

Olympic-LogoBy Alicia Dziak

With the XXII Olympic Winter Games in full swing, both the U.S. and Canada have already taken several medals.

Living in this winter climate, many of the Winter Olympic sports hit close to home, and many Western New Yorkers and Canadians have personal connections to the sports now being televised on an international level. Ice hockey and curling, two team games played on ice, both offer viewers numerous opportunities to check them out during the games.

Ice Hockey

With both Buffalo and Toronto boasting professional ice hockey teams, many local Olympic fans are familiar with the sport. This is a fast-paced game in which two teams attempt to hit a puck into their opponent’s goal using sticks, while preventing the puck from entering their own goal. Like several other winter Olympic sports, ice hockey games take place on an ice rink, and six players from each team are permitted on the ice at a time (one goaltender, two defense and three offense.) Players who commit a penalty are removed from the game for a period of time, during which the other team has a player advantage.

The top four teams compete for the three medals in the two final games.

In the Olympic Winter Games program, there are separate ice hockey competitions for men and women, and two sets of medals are awarded.

Hockey fans will likely be rooting for Buffalo Sabres goalie Ryan Miller, and Toronto Maple Leafs forwards James Van Riemsdyk and Phil Kessel, playing for the U.S. men’s hockey team, and forwards Rebecca Johnston, Jennifer Wakefield and Natalie Spooner, all of the Toronto Furies, playing for the Canadian women’s hockey team. In addition, Sabres goaltender Jhonas Enroth and defenseman Henrik Tallinder will be playing for Sweden, and forward Zemgus Girgensons and coach Ted Nolan will be part of Latvia’s team.

Remaining ice hockey events will be held Feb. 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22 and 23, with the highlights of the women’s gold medal game on Feb. 20, and the men’s gold medal game on Feb. 23.

Curling

Curling , a game played between two four-person teams, was a demonstration sport in the Olympic Games as early as 1932 but has only been an official Olympic sport since 1998. Two sets of medals are awarded for this sport in the Olympics — one for men and one for women.

Curling is played on ice with team members delivering a 19.96 kg (44 lbs.) stone to a circular target area called the house. Competitors aim to get the stone closer to the center of the house than any stone of the opposing team. Athletes in this event wear special curling shoes with different soles. One has a slippery sole, worn on the sliding foot, and the other is made from rubber to provide traction.

Each curling game consists of 10 “ends.” During each end, each player steers two stones (for a total of eight per team) toward the house, alternating with the opposing team. Team members not physically pushing the stone use brooms to sweep the ice surface in front of the stone to reduce friction.

The score is determined once all 16 stones have been delivered to the house. In case of a tie at the conclusion of 10 ends, extra ends are played until one team wins.

Upcoming curling events are scheduled for Feb. 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20 and 21, with the women’s gold game on Feb. 20 and men’s gold game on Feb. 21.

Sources: www.sochi2014.com, www.olympic.org and www.sabres.nhl.com.

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