The Winter Olympics are here and its almost time for one of the more exciting spots from the winter games to get their tournament underway.  I am talking of course about men's ice hockey as it is fast, exciting and easy to throw a few bucks around wagering. Ice hockey is usually the Winter Olympics' marquee event packed with stars from all over the globe. 

These Olympic games will be unique on the ice this year as the NHL is not allowing their players to participate in the 2018 Winter Olympics. This will be the first time since 1994 that the NHL players are absent from the games. The decision was made by the league despite vocal protests by many of the leagues top stars. 

With no NHL players taking part in the game the talent pool has surely shrunk but the competition has opened up to a wider range of teams that normally would not be considered competitive. Previous Olympics have been dominated by teams such as Canada that was comprised entirely of NHL talent. The majority of the top tier talent now draws from the KHL League, which gives an advantage to countries like Russia(comprised entirely of KHL athletes). 

Here's a quick breakdown of the different groups and each team's odds to take home the gold. 

Group A (Canada, Czech Republic, Switzerland, and the Republic of Korea)

Group A is led by former powerhouse Canada at +400 who despite missing a plethora of former stars including Sidney Crosby are the favorite to come out of Group A. The Czech Republic has a decent shot to medal as well and is +800 to win gold. Switzerland is next at +3300 and the North/South Korea mashup Republic of Korea follows at +40,000(and you thought Cleveland Browns' odds were high). 

Group B (Russia/OAR, United States, Slovakia, Slovenia)

Russia, or the Olympic Athletes from Russia, are not only the Group B favorite but they are the current overall favorite for the tournament with odds of just +120. They are considered the best team in the tournament and they are led by the tournaments best player in Ilya Kovalchuk(favored to lead the tournament in goals scored). The US team follows at +1100 led by captain Brian Gionta. The rest of the group is comprised of real longshots with Slovakia at +8000 and Slovenia at a whopping +40000. 

Group C (Sweden, Finland, Norway, and Germany)

Sweden is the front-runner for this group and many see them as the biggest challenge to the Russians with odds at +400. They are followed by another strong medal contender in Finland at +800. The group is rounded out with two longshots with Germany's odds at +6600 and Norway sitting at +10000.  

Many will pass over this event citing the lack of talent due to no NHL players. Hopefully, we get an opposite effect in that you get a bunch of players that are truly spirited and happy to be here that put on a passionate show for the fans with some exciting hockey.

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