ZURICH, March 30: Following a two-day meeting in Zurich, the IIHF council today approved the new format for the men's tournament of the 2010 Olympic Winter Games in Vancouver. The format of the women's Olympic tournament will remain as it was in Turin 2006.
The men's tournament will remain as a 12-team event like in Turin 2006, but the teams will be seeded into three groups of four teams. The Turin Olympics featured two groups of six.
In the 30-game Olympic men's tournament, a first-phase Round-Robin that will commence on February 16 will send the four teams with the best Round-Robin records directly to the quarterfinals. The remaining eight teams will move on to play a Qualifying Playoff round to decide the other four quarter-final spots. The winners of each quarter-final will then go on to the semi-finals, with the winners of playing for the gold medal, and the losers playing for bronze. The bronze medal game will be on February 27, while gold medal game is scheduled for February 28.
Scroll down for the full explanation of the men's Olympic format.
The council also decided that the 2008 IIHF World Championship in Canada (Quebec City & Halifax, May 1 – 18) will serve as the qualifying tournament for the 2010 Vancouver Olympics. The top nine teams in the IIHF World Ranking following the Canada 2008 will earn direct qualification to the 12-team Olympic tournament. The remaining three teams will be determined through a number of Olympic qualifying tournaments, played in the autumn of 2008 and early 2009.
The only difference to the women's Olympic tournament from 2006 is that the six top teams in the IIHF Women's World Ranking following the 2008 World Women's Championship (in China) will earn direct qualification to the 8-team Olympic tournament in Vancouver. For Turin 2006, only the top four ranked teams earned direct entry.
Four-man officiating system already for Canada 2008
The IIHF Council also approved the proposal that would see the 2008 IIHF World Championship in Canada be the first major IIHF championship that would use the four-man officiating system with two referees and two linesmen.
The IIHF initially planned to introduce the four-man system at the men's senior World Championship for the 2009 event in Switzerland, but the council voted in favour of speeding up the plans.
"As we earlier decided to make the change to the four-man system already for the 2008 European Champions Cup, the World Junior (U20) Championship and the World U18 Championship, we agreed in principle to go with four on-ice officials in Canada 2008," says IIHF President René Fasel. "So if the implementation at the mentioned test tournaments, including the World Juniors in Czech Republic will be successful, we will definitely go with the four-man system in Quebec City and Halifax. This obviously opens the door to the men's tournament in Vancouver 2010 being officiated with the four-man system."
2010 MEN'S OLYMPIC FORMAT
After this round, teams will be seeded 1 through 12, based on the following criteria: higher position in their group standings; higher number of points; better goal difference; higher number of goals for; and better 2009 IIHF World Ranking. The IIHF's three-point system will be in effect.
Following the preliminary round, the top four teams – the three Group winners plus the best second-place team – will get a bye into the quarter-finals. The remaining eight teams will play sudden-death playoff games (Team No. 5 vs. No. 12; No. 6 vs. No. 11; No. 7 vs. No. 10; and, No. 8 vs. No. 9).
The four winners from these Playoff games will advance to meet the four 'bye' teams in the quarter final games. The four quarter final winners will advance to the semi-finals with the two semi-final winners going into the gold medal game on Sunday, Feb. 28. The two losers from the semi-finals will play in the bronze medal game, played on Saturday, Feb. 27.
The Vancouver 2010 Olympic Men's ice hockey tournament will be played over a 13-day period beginning on Tuesday Feb. 16, and ending on Sunday Feb. 28, the day of the Vancouver 2010 Closing Ceremony. The tournament will consist of 30 games, all but 2 of which will be played at GM Place. One playoff game and one quarter-final game will be played at the University of British Columbia. There will be a total of 12 teams in the tournament with rosters of 20 skaters and three goalies.QUALIFICATION: Immediately following the 2008 IIHF World Championships, the top nine hockey countries in the world, according to the IIHF's 2008 World Ranking, will be granted automatic entry into the Olympic tourney. For countries ranked No. 19 through 30, there will be a pre-Olympic qualification tournament in November of 2008. The top three teams from this qualifier will advance to another pre-Olympic qualifier in February of 2009, which will additionally feature the countries ranked No. 10 through 18. The top three qualifiers from that 12-team tournament will take the 10th, 11th and 12th entry spot for the Vancouver 2010 Men's Olympic ice hockey tournament.TOURNAMENT FORMAT: The 12 teams will be divided into three groups of four. Group A will consist of the 1st, 6th, 7th and 12th seed. Group B will be the 2nd, 5th, 8th and 11th seed. And Group C will be the 3rd, 4th, 9th and 10th seed. The Preliminary Round of the tournament will be a Round-Robin competition, where each team will play against each team in its group.