Host City: Nagano, Japan
Date Started: February 7, 1998
Date Finished: February 22, 1998
Participants: 426 (306 men and 120 women) from 15 countries
Youngest Participant: Emma Laaksonen (16 years, 54 days)
Oldest Participant: France St. Louis (39 years, 115 days)
Most Medals (Athlete): 125 athletes with 1 medal
Most Medals (Country): Finland (2 medals)
Two halls in Nagano were used for the Olympic ice hockey matches. The main arena was Big Hat, which is still in use for hockey, while the secondary venue was the Aqua Wing Arena, which has since been converted to a swimming pool, as the name suggests. For the first time since 1920, a new ice hockey event was added to the Games. Women were allowed to compete for the first time, having had their own World Championships since 1987. The women had six teams that played a round-robin tournament with the two leading teams, which turned out to be, as expected, the United States and Canada, playing a single game for the gold medal, won in a minor upset by the United States.
The NHL closed down for two weeks to allow all their players to compete in Nagano. The format was adjusted to accommodate the players and the league. The world’s top six hockey nations – Canada, Czech Republic, Finland, Russia, Sweden, and the United States – were seeded into the final pools. Eight other teams (Austria, Belarus, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Kazakhstan, Slovakia) were separated into two four-team preliminary pools. The winner of each pool advanced to the two final four-team pools, joining the six seeded teams. The final pools, however, were really only seeding pools as all eight teams advanced into a single-elimination medal tournament. Belarus and Kazakhstan advanced from the preliminary pools to compete for the medals, but both lost in the quarter-finals.