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70OLYMPIC REVIEW Canada's national sport, ice hockey will play a prominent role at the Vancouver Games with matches spread out over all but one day of the entire programme. The men's tournament, in which Sweden are the reigning champions, will feature 12 teams battling to advance to the playoff, then medals stages after the opening round robin tournaments. The women's tournament, in which hosts Canada are the two- time defending champions, has a similar format except only eight teams are involved. The Olympic rinks in Vancouver are four metres narrower than their international counterparts, the tournaments being played on a North American ice hockey surface. Held over three, 20- minute periods ice hockey matches usually shape up to be battles of skill, speed, aggression and stamina between teams that contain 20 players and three goalkeepers ( 18 players and three goalkeepers for the women). At any one time only six players from each team are allowed on the ice - five players and one goaltender - as teams battle to get the solid rubber puck into the opposing team's net with slick passing, fast skating and shots which can hit speeds well in excess of 100km/ h. Due to the sport's combative nature, players can often find themselves in the penalty box serving two- minute penalties for minor infractions such as tripping or hooking with the stick, or for longer for fighting or charging from behind. The loss of one or several players, in theory, gives the advantage to the opposing team, resulting in " power plays" where the numerical advantage often, but not always, leads to goals. BelowGoalmouth action as Sweden attack during the men's semi- final in Turin FORMAT

OLYMPIC REVIEW71 VENUEFORMGUIDE Matches will be spread over two venues - the Canada Hockey Place and the University of British Columbia Thunderbird Arena ( UBC). Canada Hockey Place needs no introduction to locals, fans of the game, or to the millions of patrons who have graced the venue over the past 14 years. As well as being the home of local NHL team the Vancouver Canucks, the facility is one of the most active entertainment venues in North America and has welcomed a host of top names since its opening in 1995. The capacity of Canada Hockey Place is 18,630 and it regularly hosts 100 events each year. The capacity at UBC, which is located on a large ocean- side campus on Vancouver's west side, is 7,200. Following the 2010 Games, the UBC venue will serve as a recreational and high- performance multi- sport legacy facility. Home advantage is a concept not usually applicable in Olympic ice hockey but it is something that Canada, in particular their men's team, will be hoping to benefit from in Vancouver. To win one of the most coveted golds of the Games, Canada will have to get past the traditional powerhouse teams from Scandinavia, Russia, the United States and the Czech Republic. And going on recent form the Scandinavians and the Russians may just have the edge. At Salt Lake City in 2002 the US hosts had to settle for silver in both the men's and women's tournaments as the Canadian men and women swept both gold medals. But in Turin four years later a Sweden team packed with NHL stars claimed the gold medal by beating Finland. While the Czech Republic won bronze after beating Russia, the Canadian men crashed out at the quarter- final stage. The pressure to deliver could work either way but Canada have shown as recently as May, where they finished runner- up to Russia for the second consecutive year in the final of the world championships, that they are back in contention. Canada, coached at the event by Buffalo Sabres stalwart Lindy Ruff, dominated for long periods of the game but Russia pounced on two mistakes from the Canadians to win the match 2- 1. Olympic champions Sweden beat the US team to claim the bronze. In Vancouver big things will also be expected from Canada's unstoppable women, who will be aiming for their third consecutive gold having beated Nagano champions, the USA, at Salt Lake City, then stopped a Swedish gold medal sweep in Turin. They have already highlighted the USA, Finland and Sweden as their main rivals for gold. Below leftThe Czech Republic are always strong in the men's event Below Canada's women are going for a third successive gold SPORTS PROFILES