The biggest difference between NHL and Olympic hockey is the size of the rink. The larger Olympic surface (200x100 feet) puts a greater emphasis on skill and speed with less physical play. Beyond that, rules are virtually identical: Teams play five skaters and one goalie per side and the game is split into three 20-minute periods with two 15-minute intermissions. Minor penalties such as slashing, tripping and interference still are two minutes, while major penalties such as spearing are five minutes.
The top two teams from the eight-team preliminary round-robin advance to the eight-team round-robin championship round. Teams earn two points for a victory and one point for a tie. The top two teams in each group will advance to the medal round. In the event of a tie in the final points standings, preliminary- and championship-round rankings will be determined by the following criteria, which will be applied in the following order until the tie is broken:
1. Head-to-head results.
Round robin games can end in ties, but overtime is played in the medal round. In the quarterfinals and semifinals, games tied after 60 minutes of regulation play a 10-minute sudden-death OT followed by a five-player shootout. In the finals, the overtime period is 20 minutes, followed by a shootout.
2. Goal differential.
3. Goal differential based on common opponents.
4. Goals scored.
5. If the two teams in question are playing each other, a 10-minute sudden death overtime will be played.
6. If a tie still exists, then a shooting competition is employed, which has thusfar never happened.
The women's game varies only slightly: There is no body checking.