Although Japan had never before hosted an international ice hockey tournament, it built two top indoor rinks for the Olympics. The main venue was the Makomanai Indoor Rink, with room for a crowd of 12,000, while the Tsukisamu rink could host half that number. For the first time, team rosters were allowed to feature up to 20 players.
The biggest absence in 1972 was Canada, which did not compete in Olympic ice hockey in either 1972 or 1976 in protest. Canada could not use their professionals but considered the Soviet Union players to be professionals as well, while the IOC did not see it that way.
As in 1964 and 1968 there were two pools in ice hockey in 1972. The A Pool of six teams contested the medals, while the B Pool, or consolation pool, played for positions 7-11. The Soviet Union had won the Olympic gold medal in 1956-1968, and had not lost at the World Championships since 1962, so they were seeded directly into the A Pool. The other 10 teams played a single-elimination game in a qualifying round, the five winners advancing to the A Pool with the USSR, and the losers composing the B Pool. Seeding for the qualifying round was carefully done so that hockey powerhouses Czechoslovakia, Sweden, Finland, and the United States advanced easily