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08-10-2012, 06:13 PM
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Originally Posted by Czech Your Math View Post
That's certainly true. Do you not think players from most other hockey countries have similar backgrounds over more recent decades?

The opportunity may not have been much less before WW2, but I would still contend it was probably less. People are talking about lack of representation of and appreciation for players who were born before 1900 or shortly after. Hockey is known as a viable long-term profession today, whereas I believe at least some % probably didn't view it in the same light in much, much earlier times. Increased overall wealth allows much more freedom of opportunity for leisure and pursuits of risky, short-lived professions such as athletics, for a wider variety of people.

Either way, the population component of the changing hockey player pool/population overwhelms the relatively minor component of opportunity IMO. This is only more true with the addition of players from around the world in more recent decades.

I did enjoy all the stories about various players' childhoods, which I ran across in researching some of the issues, and I've learnt some things as well. I don't see the need for some here to act like I'm trying to impose my viewpoint on the matter on others. If it seems that way, I apologize, but the opposing viewpoints seems to be expressed much, much more often in many forms and forums here.
For my part, Canadian hockey is what I know and what I am interested in. I'm sure Jagr, Forsberg, Modano, and others spent their share of time on the rink. If you have links or quotes, I'm willing to be educated.

My understanding has always been that the Russians in particular, in the old Soviet Union, came from a systematic player selection and training program starting at a young age, not from a culture of outdoor hockey. I could be wrong here - I'm really not familiar with Russian hockey. But in any case it's a question of development more than the talent pool.

It seems to me that since approximately 1925 or so, hockey has enjoyed every advantage it has today in Canada. It has been the number one winter activity, there hasn't been any stigma about playing professional sports, the money has been better than any career, and boys have dreamed of growing up to play in the NHL for the Stanley Cup. From that point on you see very few hockey players passing on the NHL, and the vast majority of Canadian athletes were playing hockey (although more in some areas than others.)

I don't mean to dismiss your viewpoint, I just think that a lot of these "rational" talent pool arguments ignore valuable parts of hockey's tradition. I really think that there has been a major decline in the Canadian outdoor hockey tradition in my memory (the last 20 years or so), which has gone hand in hand with the disappearance of unsupervised and unstructured play for children. I think most Canadian boys have lost the opportunities to put in thousands of hours on the rink that previous generations had, and I think that has a cost in skill, creativity, and hockey sense that can't be taught. The rise in organized hockey schools and more resources for coaches has gone hand in hand with the decline in unorganized play, and has been able to coach the ordinary player to a certain standard, but I don't know if it develops extraordinary players as well.

I know it's hard to quantify these in a talent pool discussion, but I think these points need to be raised. It's far from certain that today's hockey culture and general culture in society will ever develop another Wayne Gretzky.

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