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08-10-2012, 07:07 PM
Czech Your Math
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Originally Posted by overpass View Post
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.
I don't really feel like searching for other examples at the moment, so I'll stick with what I already know:

"Jagr began skating at the age of four, and soon became consumed by hockey. As a child, he played on three different teams, usually against older players to improve his skills. When he reached the age of eight, he was playing in multiple games on weekends after practicing for hours daily."

"Jaromir started skating around the age of three. He learned to shoot in his backyard, playing street hockey with his dad. He often took 500 shots a day. At age six, he was on three different teams, which meant he got triple the ice team of other kids. His stickhandling and shooting skills were superb, but he was just an average skater. When he heard that the country’s top players improved their speed by doing squats, he started doing 1,000 a day. Within a year he was the fastest player on his team.

By the age of 12, Jaromir was one of the best young players in the country. He began his junior hockey career playing against boys five and six years older."

It's a combination of talent, practice, training, work ethic and the mental aspect. Maybe other countries have been more systematic than Canada in the past. I think most of the best players have a large amount of most/all of those elements. I don't like the increased focus on systems, and that may stifle creativity to some degree. However, the best will usually find a way to be the best.

Originally Posted by overpass View Post
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.
My limited understanding of Soviet hockey is similar. They may focus on the system more than other non-Canadian countries.

Originally Posted by overpass View Post
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.)
Okay, that seems possible. However, the pre-1925 period still includes a lot of players who were supposedly "under-represented" and that's what I was addressing and (admittedly) speculating about.

Originally Posted by overpass View Post
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.
I think you may be very right. However, that would influence the type of hockey played and the skills of each individual player, not the total player pool. I find it strange to penalize players who are dominating a much larger player pool (last 50 years) in comparison to a much smaller player pool (before that), because life is so busy for most now or because Canada has decided to follow the Soviet systematic approach. The player pool has still grown by leaps and bounds and the better players have plenty of training, physical skill and instruction. Personally, I'm not going to assume that players that drank and smoked large amounts would be the best today. If they weren't maximizing their ability then, how do we know they would now? Maybe some of them were able to dominate against lesser competition, but would they still be able to dominate today? It's difficult to say, but I'd give the edge to players who dominated against a deeper player pool which was generally closer to maximizing their abilities. There are proably players who are partying a lot and not as good as they could be. Maybe they could have been better in past eras when a lot more players led that lifestyle, but I'm not going to give those players extra credit for that either. The best strive to be the best and usually find a way to do so.

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