The National Women's Hockey League is currently in its offseason following its sixth year of play, but things have been anything but normal over the past few weeks. A lot has transpired recently, and it appears as though this could be the tip of the iceberg.
The Winter Olympics technically began yesterday, on February 7 with training runs for ski jumping, luge, and biathlon. Today, more training sessions follow, and round robin sessions begin for mixed doubles curling (a two-person curling event with one man and one woman per team, which is making its Olympic debut this year).
But things really kick off after Friday's opening ceremonies, which will take place at 6:00 AM Eastern time. The Winter Olympics last for two weeks, and have 102 total events. Obviously, we at the Victory Press will be doing our best to bring you analysis of the women's ice hockey tournament, and if you are reading this site you are probably already invested in that. But what else should you watch -- and how do you get it into your eyeballs?
NBC has been an exclusive rightsholder in the US for Olympic broadcasts for many, many years now. If you have a cable subscription that includes NBC channels, you are basically all set. USA Network, NBC Sports, CNBC, and the NBC flagship station will all be airing Olympic events. But, as always, you do have other options.
Here is the complete event schedule from Olympic.org.
HowToGeek has a guide about how to watch without cable in the US, including what packages for Sling include the channels you need if you want to subscribe for a month to make sure you don't miss anything.
If you're Canadian, MobileSyrup has a guide for how to access events. CBC owns the Canadian broadcasting rights for the Olympics.
Please feel free to share any resources that you have for other countries in the comments, or mention us on Twitter with the links so we can spread the word.
We asked our staff what events they are most looking forward to:
I'm excited to watch curling. The new mixed doubles is an interesting new way to curl, and then there's the introduction of the high tech brooms and how they might affect the game. Plus the Norwegian curling pants. I started curling a few years ago, so I'm excited to watch it through that lens this year.
I was lucky enough to watch the US long-track speed skating trials in person here in Milwaukee, so I'm excited to check in on those folks I got to see up close and personal. The official US home used to be here and there are many speed skating Olympians from my area because of that, so there's always a good hometown element to it for me. Erin Jackson made the team just four months after switching over from inline skating and she's the first African-American woman to make the US long-track speed skating team. She's a great story and I hope to see her be successful.
I'm usually a casual figure skating watcher, but there's a hard-core group of Twitter figure skating fans, so they've drawn me in a bit more to the storylines and background. The US men are so very different in their styles and I want Mirai Nagasu to win all the things.
I'm definitely one of those people who'll turn on pretty much any Olympic event at any time during the run of the games, so I'm pretty excited. I love bobsled, luge and skeleton, all the skiing options, biathlon, snowboarding. Really, I'll be staying up way too late at night to watch pretty much everything, honestly.
Clearly I am looking forward to women's hockey (because hockey), but aside from that, I've always loved to watch downhill skiing, of any kind. I grew up in Colorado and I have been skiing (thought not for many years), but I was always terrified of skiing too fast. It amazes me to watch skiers hurl themselves down the slopes at the speeds that they do, because the thought of actually doing it myself is frightening.
Speaking of sports I could do myself, I like to play a fantasy game every time I watch the Olympics: what sport could I conceivably participate in at the Olympic level, if I dedicated myself to it at this moment in my life? It's a little easier for the Summer Olympics, because they have various horse sports and various shooting sports, which are less constrained by age and gender. (My husband, a former competitive shooter, says that women tend to perform better at shooting sports -- as seen by the excellent performance of both Corey Cogdell and Ginny Thrasher in Rio in 2016.)
Winter sports make this game more difficult, because of my aforementioned speed phobia...but I'll certainly be watching the US biathlon team with great interest.
While I'm not really super knowledgeable about any Olympic sport other than ice hockey, I will watch as many as I can catch avidly and excitedly. I am extremely hyped for all of the ice skating events. This is the first year that music with lyrics will be permitted in the figure skating events at the Olympic level, so I expect we'll see lots of personality and more modern music in the routines, which will be exciting to watch. I also enjoy watching from the sidelines while all of my American and Canadian friends snipe online about pairs competition. (In case you didn't know, there is a lot of bad blood between the US and Canada in the figure skating realm.)
I also am looking forward to seeing as much curling as possible, in large part so I can talk to Andrew about it and benefit from his insight -- read his section below for a huge outpouring of awesome information about Canadian women's curling and more on the new mixed doubles curling event. Curling is one of my favorite Olympic sports to watch because of the suspense involved in watching the stones move and the dramatic team atmosphere. If you've never tuned into curling before, it's never too late to get hooked on it.
I watched several qualification events for speed skating, and I'm especially excited for Thomas Hong, a member of the US national men's team who is from South Korea and moved to the United States as a young child. He trained in Korea over the years and his mother literally went into labor during one of his sister's speed skating practices. Team USA has a great feature on him here. Speed skating is fast, obviously, but the longer races have a kind of slow burn element to them, and can get really dicey in the final laps regardless of how they start out.
And obviously, the women's ice hockey tournament terrifies me. In every way. The men's tournament is going to be really interesting, too, without the NHLers, and I'm going to catch as much of it as I can, especially to root on Jordan Greenway, the first black athlete to represent the United States in ice hockey. (Blake Bolden should have been on the women's team as well, by the way.)
There are lots of events I'm looking forward to in the coming days: bobsled, biathlon, moguls and freestyle skiing, figure skating, short and long track speedskating, and of course, women's hockey.
But I'm particularly looking forward to curling for two reasons: mixed doubles and women's curling. The introduction of mixed doubles curling is very exciting! It's not a sport I've had a chance to watch much and I'm interested in the strategy differences (pre-positioned stones, only five throws per end, only two players per team, only 8 ends). It's also interesting to me because Canada enters the tournament without the track record of success the country has in the men's and women's game. Canada's mixed doubles pair, John Morris and Kaitlyn Lawes, do come highly decorated though. Morris is a two-time World Junior champ, three-time Brier champion (Canada's men's national championships, two as a third, one as a third/skip), a world champion, and an Olympic champion in Vancouver. Lawes is a two-time Canadian junior champ, a Scotties winner (Canada's women's national championship), a silver medalist at the worlds, and an Olympic champion.
It'll be interesting to watch how the pair gel, as Morris was originally set to enter the trials with Ontario skip Rachel Homan (who became ineligible per Curling Canada's rules after winning the women's title at Roar of the Rings -- Canada's Olympic qualifying tournament for curling -- in Ottawa in December). Morris, who played through a back injury at Roar, and Lawes had one practice together before winning the doubles qualifier. Lawes missed last week's Scotties, but her team, led by the legendary Jennifer Jones, took the title, with Shannon Birchard filling in at third. Lawes is in a similar position to Morris post-2010: a long-time third on one of the best teams in the world who seems poised to make the next step. This is an opportunity for Lawes to step out of Jones' long shadow and start a journey towards skipping her own team.
For me, the main event in curling is the women's tournament. This is Rachel Homan's tournament to lose. It's funny what a difference a year can make. Going into the 2017 Scotties in St. Catherines, Ontario, questions plagued the Homan team. After winning back-to-back Scotties titles in 2013 and 2014 and a silver at the worlds in 2014, her team won bronze at the 2015 Scotties and shockingly failed to qualify for the 2016 event. They had success on the curling tour, but that Scotties miss made some question whether they should be considered in the same class as a team like the Jones rink.
But the Homan team has, without question, been the best team in the world for the last 12 months. It started with an a thrilling (and possibly best-ever Scotties final) extra-end win over Manitoba's Michelle Englot in St. Catherines in February. The following month, the Homan team became the first undefeated (13-0) team to win the women's world championship. They wrapped up their 2017 by taking the Roar of the Rings title over the previously undefeated Chelsea Carey. If they take gold at the Olympics, Homan, who's only 28, has to be included in the conversation about the best ever, along with Jennifer Jones, Colleen Jones, and the late Sandra Schmirler (obligatory link to The Shot).
Watch for Joanne Courtney, second on the Homan team, if you want to see some world-class brushing ability. She's quite simply the best at her position. After winning Roar, the team made a lineup change that caused a bit of a stir, replacing alternate Cheryl Kreviazuk with 2010 Olympic silver medalist and current TSN analyst Cheryl Bernard. At 51, Bernard has only been retired from competitive curling for four years, and brings valuable Olympic experience and another skip's eye to the team.
There are some skilled teams in the rest of the field looking to take gold as well. However, 2017 world championship silver medalist and two-time European champion Anna Sidorova and her team won't be representing the Olympic Athletes from Russia; it will be 2016 European champion, Julia Guzieva. Sweden's Anna Hasselborg beat Homan for the world junior title in 2010, won silver medals at the European championships in 2016 and 2017, and made the playoffs at last year's worlds. Watch for her team come playoff time. Significantly, two-time world champion Alina Pätz failed to qualify, so Silvana Tirinzoni will represent Switzerland. Finally, Great Britain's Eve Muirhead is a perennial contender. Though she's only 27, she feels like she's been around forever, perhaps because of her dominance at the junior level where she was a four-time champion. She's a two-time European champion, a world champion in 2013, and this will be her third Olympics. She has the experience and talent, though her team usually isn't at the same level as their skip. I'd be shocked if GB doesn't make it out of the round robin stage.
Ice dance is the sport I hate to love. Barring either a major error or even more corruption than we already expected, the gold medal in Pyeongchang will come down to a battle between Canada's Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir and France's Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron. Will the recent modifications to Virtue and Moir's free dance be reflected in the scores? Will the rankings change between the team competition and the individual event? Will the skating be reflected in the scores? It is ice dance, after all. There's only one way to find out, and the best way to go into it is with a healthy dose of skepticism and a desperate cling to hope.
Moguls skiing is beautiful, stressful, and has a judging style that seems clear enough to make the average viewer feel like they've truly figured it out by the time the fifth and final session gets underway. I feel sympathy pains in my knees when I watch it. Australia is weirdly good at this snow sport, which involves racing down a bumpy ski hill, doing flips off a ramp, and being scored on both time and technique alike. I have no idea how any of these athletes have ACLs left, and it frightens me.
Our staff of Americans and Canadians is wishing every athlete and journalist in South Korea a safe and awesome Olympics!
Filed under: 2018 olympics; olympic sports; curling; biathlon; skiing; speed skating; figure skating; ice dancing
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