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How to watch women's ice hockey at the Winter Olympics: A guide to understanding and appreciating the sport

What time is women’s ice hockey on at the Olympics? Plus all the rules, streaming information, and listings you need.

Ice Hockey - Winter Olympics Day 13 - Canada v United States Photo by Martin Rose/Getty Images

There’s a feeling of unfinished business with the United States women’s ice hockey team. At the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Team USA fell to Team Canada in a heartbreaking overtime gold medal game loss that would not have been if the puck had ended up a mere inch to the right on this empty net try.

It’s been four years since Sochi, but the conversation about women’s hockey constantly seems to swirl around these two powerhouse teams. Canada and the United States have met a few times since, as Team USA punched back with an overtime gold of their own in the 2017 IIHF Ice Hockey Women’s World Championship. Yet, the rivalry between the two countries is far from over.

While the United States and Canada will dominate the conversation, there are six other countries competing this year — including the Olympic Athletes from Russia and a unified Korean team. Out of the five Olympic games played with women’s hockey, only the 2006 games in Turin, Italy, were the United States and Canada not No. 1 and No. 2 in some order. With the randomness of hockey, however, it certainly can be anyone’s game.

What time and how can I watch?

The United States will play three preliminary round games against the three teams in Group A, with the top two teams in the group advancing straight to the semifinals. If you’re a night owl, or a very early riser, you can catch these games at odd hours on either NBCSN or USA.

The United States opens the tournament against Finland at 2:40 a.m. ET on Sunday, Feb. 11. All the games will be streamed live on NBC’s Olympics website.

Via USA Hockey.

Why should I quit my job and become a lifelong devotee of women’s hockey?

Women’s hockey is just as engaging, entertaining, and exciting as their men’s counterparts. In fact, while the NHL has skipped out on the men’s side, the women are bringing their best to this tournament. Leagues like the NWHL and the CWHL have showcased the incredible amounts of growth women’s hockey has gone through since the last Olympic Games, lending to a healthy, expanding community.

Hockey fans already got a taste of the talent they’ll see this winter, as Hilary Knight shot the lights out during the Accuracy Shooting event at the All-Star Skills Competition in a time that would have beaten many NHL stars.

“But there’s no fighting in women’s hockey!” you say. By the rules, yes, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t happen!

USA vs. Canada. Thursday, Feb. 15 at 10:10 p.m. ET. Mark your calendars.

What are the rules of women’s hockey? Follow up: What is the weirdest rule of women’s hockey?

Women’s hockey follows the IIHF Rule Book for international events such as the Olympics. With the games taking place outside of North America, however, the rink width size is increased from an NHL-standard 85 feet to 100 feet.

Outside of the rink size, the women play the exact same game as the men do, with two key differences:

  • Women must wear full face shields while playing.
  • Body checking will be assessed as a minor, major, or game misconduct penalty at the referee’s discretion.

While the distinctions in the women’s game, and the international game in general, make for some interesting nuances, it’s hard to say any of those are weird rules. If anything, keep an eye on the potential usage of a coach’s challenge, which will make its way from the NHL to the Olympic stage. Offside calls and goaltender interference calls may become a factor now that the Olympics allow challenges.

What can I talk about to impress the women’s hockey enthusiast in my life?

Some quick women’s hockey facts to get you through these next two weeks:

  • The United States women’s team’s last gold medal in the sport came in the first year of its inclusion in the Olympics, at the 1998 Nagano Games. We’re 20 years out from the team’s last gold medal, and it’s no secret the United States wants to knock Canada down a peg or two as they shoot for their fifth-straight gold.
  • In fact, the team the United States left on the bench could be a heavy medal favorite in their own right, as players like Alex Carpenter, Kelli Stack, and Megan Bozek all were on the 2014 Sochi team.
  • For the first time ever, North and South Korea are fielding a joint Olympic team for women’s hockey! Considering the relations between these two countries, this team is one for the history books no matter their placement.
  • Everyone’s favorite Japanese team is back after starring in a goal celebration for the ages. This time, however, they’re looking to get on track after going winless in the 2014 games.

Whose jersey should I buy?

If you’re a Team USA fan, Hilary Knight is a name to remember. Knight had six points in five games in 2014, and was a key member of Team USA’s 2017 World Championship win with nine points in five games.

Alongside Knight, Amanda Kessel, AKA Best Kessel, and Brianna Decker are among the USA’s best forwards and sure-fire playmakers.

As for Team Canada, you cannot go wrong with Marie-Philip Poulin, a two-time gold medalist who put the dagger through the heart of Team USA with her golden goal in 2014. In that tournament, Poulin posted three goals and two assists.

Natalie Spooner and Meghan Agosta are also solid choices for Team Canada, as they were member’s of the last Team Canada squad that won gold.

What is women’s hockey’s AMERICA RATING?

10 out of 10 bald eagles.

The Americans are expected to compete for a gold medal once again against rival Canada. Anything short of making it to the final will be an upset for Team USA, which is stacked once again with the best competition the sport has to offer. That, plus the revenge factor from the last Olympics makes this sport a must watch for any fan, casual or hardcore.

What’s the best GIF I can watch from women’s hockey?

“But, women’s hockey isn’t as skilled as men’s hockey!”

Case closed. Go USA.