No favorite in men's hockey

Associated Press

WEST VALLEY CITY, Utah -- Exchanging their club jerseys for national colors, NHL stars put their million-dollar jobs aside for the start of what could be a landmark Olympic hockey tournament.

Nearly every hockey star of this era -- and a few dozen others who are pretty good, too -- begin play today in a three-game, round-robin format that determines the seeding for the single-elimination charge toward the gold medal next weekend.

The United States opens against 1998 bronze medalist Finland, while Russia meets Belarus, Canada plays Sweden and the Czech Republic meets Germany in a matchup featuring opposing brothers: Robert Reichel for the Czechs and Martin Reichel for Germany.

There's no clear favorite in the eight-team field. Canada is strong and so are the Americans, trying to win their first Olympic hockey medal since 1980's "Miracle on Ice" at Lake Placid.


Many think it will be an outstanding Russian team eager to return to Olympic dominance, and nobody is dismissing the defending champion Czechs, with Dominik Hasek back in net.

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