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RandBall: The beauty and oddity of Olympic hockey

  • Blog Post by: Michael Rand
  • February 17, 2014 - 9:35 AM

At this point in life, it is rare to watch sports and see something new. It is even more rare to see something you had no idea even existed as a rule.

But some of us -- including your humble proprietor -- were treated to exactly that on Saturday morning. As the U.S. and Russia skated in a preliminary round game 34 years after the Miracle on Ice, we could sense the momentum building toward a memorable finish. That said, we couldn't even quite recall what the international overtime rules were for a non-medal round game. Would they skate to a tie? Would there be endless overtime? Hard to say.

It could have been a moot point if not for the greatest of breaks, of course, for the Americans: the net being a centimeter or two off its moorings for what would have been a third period go-head goal for Russia. Instead, it was overturned in a review. The world wouldn't know as much about former Warroad star T.J. Oshie right now if not for that, but that's the beauty of sports. Heroes are born from oddities.

And honestly, the disallowed goal was just the beginning of the oddity. At the end of the five-minute overtime, we were treated to a shootout. But if your main guidepost for shootouts is watching the NHL, the Olympic rules certainly have one huge quirk.

We all know now, of course, that after the three-round shootout, it was knotted at one goal each. The surprise to some of us is what happened next: Oshie took the next round -- the first sudden death round -- for the U.S. after scoring the only goal of the regular round. And then he took another round. And another. And another. And another.

It is the goofiest, oddest rule that allows the same shooter to keep going in the sudden death as long as it is still tied. It really makes zero sense. But it was beautiful all the same because it was something we had never seen before.

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