There was a time when hockey was dominated by Canadian players. Those times have changed a lot.
Posted at 11:35 a.m.
What do they have in common? They are all Americans. They are also among the top 22 scorers in the NHL.
Eleven of the National League’s top 22 scorers are Americans. Only two, Connor McDavid and Matt Duchene, are Canadian…
In 1980, American hockey players made up 9% of National Hockey League players, compared to 82% of Canadians.
Forty years later, their number has tripled, while the number of Canadian players has halved.
Ratio of Canadian versus American players over the decades
- 2021 : 42% vs. 27%
- 2010 : 51% vs. 20%
- 2000 : 57% vs. 16%
- 1990 : 73% vs. 16%
- 1980 : 82% vs. 9%
It is not a question here of pouring into Don Cherry chauvinism and denigrating one nationality to the detriment of another, but of better understanding the effectiveness of the NHL’s strategy.
Since 1990, the market has expanded dramatically in the United States. Ten teams were added through expansion, and an eleventh was added when the Nordiques moved from Quebec to Denver.
In return, a Canadian team was created in Ottawa and the Atlanta Thrashers were relocated to Winnipeg.
Clubs have been established in non-traditional hockey markets in California, Tennessee, Nevada, Florida and Carolina.
But how to popularize American teams filled mainly with Canadian players? By increasing the number of local players.
Beginning in 2009, the NHL made the decision to contribute $8 million annually to the USA Hockey program. This was a gigantic increase since it granted only $400,000 to this organization until 2005, and 1.2 million in 2008.
That same year, 2009, the three Canadian junior circuits, the Western, Ontario and Quebec leagues, which supplied the NHL with the majority of its players, received in compensation an amount comparable to what was given to the Americans, but Hockey Canada, whose mission is to develop young Canadian players, having to settle for $100,000 a year.
Hockey Canada’s then president, Bob Nicholson, was very pleased on the sidelines of a press conference that afternoon in June 2009 to see that a reporter from The Press interested in the question.
“It gives the United States a structure and a definite advantage. I can understand that they want to strengthen hockey in the United States. They have a significant number of National League teams there. But I hope the National League will continue to remember that Canada provides them with 58% of the players. We need her to do more for our minor hockey programs. And I’m not just talking about money here, but various agreements similar to the ones they have with USA Hockey. We have many immigrants in Canada and we need to promote our sport differently. It is our responsibility, but we need the help of the NHL because of its visibility. »
We may now understand a little better why the National League is in no hurry to change the rule that allows NHL teams to wait four years before having to offer a contract to a young drafted in the NCAA, compared to two years for those who come from the Canadian junior leagues. In the case of young people from American secondary schools, National League clubs have five years to submit a contract offer to them.
In 2019, seven of the top fifteen NHL picks came from the USA development program: Jack Hughes, Alex Turcotte, Trevor Zegras, Matt Boldy, Spencer Knight, Cam York and Cole Caufield against three Canadians, Bowen Byram, Dylan Cozens and Kirby Dash.
No dumber than any other, the Canadian has blithely drawn in the United States for fifteen years. Between 2006 and 2019, seven of their fourteen first-round picks were Americans. An eighth, Louis Leblanc, came from an American circuit and was about to join the NCAA.
The Canadiens have nine American players in their current roster, including some of their finest gems, Cole Caufield and Jordan Harris, products of the American hockey boom.
Probably because USA Hockey has become too big a bureaucracy, the NHL, since last year, pays them more than 8 million annually. We are now targeting our investments more.
Successful baptism for Owen Power
The NHL’s first overall pick in 2021, defenseman Owen Power, had his baptism with the Sabers on Tuesday night and Buffalo easily lived through the mighty Toronto Maple Leafs 5-2. Power played nearly 20 minutes, even shorthanded, and was on the ice for two of his club’s goals. His teammate Alex Tuch paid him the ultimate compliment after the match: “It looks like he’s been playing in this league for ten years when he was in his first game. Everything seemed easy to him. »
The other star of the University of Michigan Wolverines, center Matt Beniers, had an assist early in his first game, in a 5-3 loss by the Seattle Kraken to the Calgary Flames. Beniers played more than 17 minutes at the center of the first line.
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