IOC to watch new women's format with interest

Fri Feb 7, 2014 3:23am EST
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By Frank Pingue

SOCHI, Russia (Reuters) - Women's ice hockey will debut a new format at the Sochi Games on Saturday aimed at avoiding the embarrassing routs that have put the sport's Olympic future in doubt, but the tournament should still come down a battle of Davids and Goliaths.

Since the women's event was added to the Olympic program at the 1998 Nagano Games, Canada and the United States have accounted for all four gold medals.

Following the 2010 Vancouver Games, which included an 18-0 Canadian rout over Slovakia, then IOC President Jacques Rogge put women's ice hockey on notice, saying: "we cannot continue without improvement."

Rogge's comments came after Canada and United States blitzed the opposition by a combined score of 86-4 on the way to the final.

In a bid to eliminate the mismatches, teams in Sochi are grouped according to world ranking with three-time Olympic champions Canada, top-ranked United States, Finland and Switzerland playing in Group A.

Russia, Sweden, Germany and Japan are in Group B.

The format was introduced at the 2012 world championships.

After the preliminary round robin, the bottom two Group A teams will play the top two from Group B in the quarter-finals.   Continued...

Members of the Canadian women's ice hockey team attend a practice session ahead of the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics February 7, 2014. REUTERS/Laszlo Balogh