By David Gold

Ice hockey_Vancouver_2010February 12 - The International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) has confirmed that 33 nations have applied to compete at the 2014 Winter Olympic Games in Sochi.

In total there are 32 applicants for the men's tournament and 24 for the women's event.

In 2014, Canada will be defending both men's and women's Olympic titles from the 2010 Games which they hosted in Vancouver.

The final list will be confirmed at the IIHF Annual Congress in Helsinki in May, with the top nine men's nations qualifying automatically for the 2014 Winter Olympics.

The top six women's sides will also qualify automatically.

The remaining entrants will have to go through qualifying tournaments.

The current world top nine men's teams to have applied are Russia, Finland, Sweden, Canada, Czech Republic, United States, Switzerland, Germany and Norway.

The top six women's sides are Canada, United States, Finland, Sweden, Russia and Switzerland.

The final list will be known at the 2012 IIHF Annual Congress.

Approval by respective National Olympic Committees may be pending for some nations.

Three further men's teams and two women's teams will qualify following a series of qualification tournaments in 2012-2013.

Both the tournaments in Sochi in 2014 and the seeding for qualification tournaments will be based on the 2012 IIHF World Rankings, calculated after the men's and women's World Championships later this year.

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