Here's your Olympics hockey primer


SOCHI, Russia -- How is the hockey at the Olympics different from that of the NHL? We've got the skinny scoop for you.

Question: Where are the officials from -- the NHL, the KHL or elsewhere? Who selected them?
Answer: There are 13 NHL officials here -- seven referees and six linesmen -- and the remaining 15 are from European leagues. The group is selected by the IIHF and NHL.

Q: What are some of the more noteworthy rules in the international game that differ from NHL rules?
A: Any contact with a high stick on an opposing player, incidental or not, is subject to a penalty call at the Olympics; in the NHL, some accidental high-sticking is permitted. Some of the obvious rule changes are no-touch icing and the absence of the NHL's trapezoid behind the nets that restricts goaltender movement. If a player loses his helmet during play in the Olympics, he must go directly to the bench, unlike the NHL, where a player may continue play. Any player born after Dec. 31, 1974, must wear a visor in the Olympics. Play is stopped if an attacking player stands in the goal crease in Olympic play, and the ensuing faceoff is taken outside the zone. Players who fight are subject to a five-minute penalty and a game misconduct in the Olympics.

Q: What are the dimensions of the international rink compared to the NHL rink, and what effect will that have on play?
A: The NHL rink size is 200 feet by 85 feet, while the Olympic rink is 15 feet wider, at 200 feet by 100 feet. The neutral zone is 8 feet longer with each defensive zone 4 feet shorter, which allows defending teams to cover point shots more quickly but conversely means shooters are much closer to the net when unleashing point shots. There is also an extra two feet between the goal line and the end boards compared to an NHL rink configuration, which places the net even closer to the blue line. The extra room in terms of the width of the ice provides a greater chance for defenders to be pulled out of position, allowing more passing/shooting lanes. Defensemen are less likely to pinch at the blue line for fear of being caught and allowing an odd-man rush.

Q: Do they use video replay in the international game?
A: Yes, the IIHF has a protocol for using video review to determine whether a goal is legal.

Q: How many players are teams allowed to carry and dress?
A: In the NHL, teams dress 18 skaters and two goalies, while at the Olympics teams can dress 20 skaters and two goalies. Most teams will dress 13 forwards and seven defensemen in Sochi.

Q: If a player is suspended for actions during the Olympics, does he sit out NHL games?
A: The NHL would honor a suspension if it extended beyond the Olympics, although it's never happened since the NHL began participating in the Olympics in 1998. Suspensions do carry over in international play. For example, Swedish defenseman Alex Edler will miss the first two games of the Sochi tournament for his hit on Canada's Eric Staal at the World Championships last spring.

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