The National Hockey League announced in September that it will not participate in the 2018 Winter Olympics in PyeongChang, South Korea. The controversial decision brought an end to NHL players participation in the Olympics, which has been allowed for the past four Winter Olympic games.
While some of the most recognizable names in hockey won’t be taking the ice, Team USA is still eyeing a podium finish.
“We expect to compete for a medal, and this will be no different,” said Tony Granato, the Team USA coach for the Olympics, according to the Los Angeles Times.
The U.S. will now form a team of NCAA college athletes, and professionals competing in other leagues outside of the NHL.
The historic “Miracle on Ice” during the 1980 Olympics was the last time Team USA won gold. The team was comprised of amateur hockey players and was considered the underdog to the defending gold medalists, the Soviet Union.
In 1987, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) decided to allow professional athletes to compete. However, the first year the IOC and the NHL agreed to allow professional players to compete wasn’t until the 1998 Olympic games.
Since that deal was struck, NHL players have been allowed to compete in the past four games. In that span, the U.S. men’s hockey team has won two silver medals, in 2002 and 2010. In the 2014 Winter Olympic games in Sochi, the U.S. finished in fourth place. Canada captured gold three times in the past four Olympics: 2002, 2010 and 2014.
The top eight teams in the 2015 IIHF Men’s World Ranking automatically qualified for the 2018 PyeongChang Olympic Winter Games. In order, Canada, Russia, Sweden, Finland, USA, Czech Republic, Switzerland and Slovakia all earned automatic berths to the 2018 Winter Olympics.
South Korea receives a berth in the tournament since it is the host nation. For the final three spots, Slovenia, Germany and Norway finished first in their respective Olympic qualifying tournaments played in September 2016 to bring the total number of teams to twelve.
In women’s hockey, the top five teams in the 2016 IIHF Women’s World Ranking automatically qualified for the 2018 PyeongChang Olympic Winter Games.
In order, the top five includes Team USA, Canada, Finland, Russia and Sweden. South Korea received a bid as the host nation. In February 2017, Japan and Switzerland secured the two final spots during a qualifying tournament.
The men’s and women’s ice hockey tournaments are scheduled to take place at venues in the city of Gangneung.