Ovechkin vs. Lindros as of Summer 2000
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10-17-2012, 04:28 AM
I voted for Kodos
Join Date: Feb 2002
Location: West Egg, New York
Originally Posted by
I'm not so sure about that. There was a fairly significant American talent pool early on, but it basically died out around World War 2 - you had Brimsek come back from the war, but really no knew American talent anymore. And while there were occasionally American NHLers afterwards, the league was 95%+ Canadian all the way through the 1970s and none of the Americans that were there were threats to any awards. There was a huge influx of American talent into the NHL after the Miracle on Ice.
Yes, obviously the ebb and flow of American talent needs to be looked at somewhat more granularly, and basically the talent pool wasn't there during the 06 and expansion eras, most likely because American kids lost interest in hockey from the 1930's through the mid-1950's for whatever reason, likely a combination of the depression, the war and the growth of other high-level professional sports in America (which would take longer in Canada) during this period. The early years had a number of big American talents. Hobey Baker, Si Griffis, Moose Goheen, Billy Burch, Taffy Abel, Frank Brimsek and Cecil Dillon come to mind immediately (I'm sure I missed a few), but then there is a lull. This is true of western european participation in the NHL, as well, which was a good deal higher during the pre-war period than is commonly believed. It is not the case that pre-war hockey was strictly Canadian or even strictly north american. Europeans have been in the NHL basically the whole time, but didn't start producing big stars until I guess the 1960's.
At any rate, I think the Miracle on Ice is something of a red herring here. Going by the birthdates of the Americans who would later become stars is probably the better method, and it looks like the next big generation of Americans were all born starting in the mid-late 1950's - guys like Mark Howe, Joe Mullen, Chris Chelios, Pat Lafontaine, Brian Leetch, etc. It appears that hockey took hold in the U.S. again once the 06 era got properly rolling along after what were some down years (as you know, NHL hockey in the 1940's wasn't all that great even outside of the war years).
The Miracle on Ice is kind of a milestone, but American hockey had taken off already by that point. Here is an excellent graphical representation of NHL players by nationality over the years:
The rise in American NHL participation from mid-teens in the 1980's and 1990's to what is now almost a quarter of the league is interesting, although I'm not at all certain that the quality is actually higher than it was twenty years ago. I mean, Quick, Thomas and Ryan are great goalies, but among the skaters it looks like a lot more "good" players, but fewer great ones.
The bulge and then steady shrinking of European players in the NHL is also nice and clear in this graph, though obviously the NHL gets the cream of the talent (with rare exceptions like Radulov). It's also hard to know just how to measure the value of the European talent that was stuck behind the Iron Curtain. We got to see the Soviets perform very well in the short series format, but what would their careers as individuals have looked like in the NHL? I tend to think they would have looked more human, though obviously guys like Kharlamov, Vasiliev and Mikhailov would have been stars in any league and in any era. Similarly, the Czechs produced some excellent talent in this era, but we'll never know precisely how good guys like Martinec and Suchy really were, and even Nedomansky only came over past his prime.
The chart above looks like an indictment of 06 hockey more than anything else, though this is also maybe a distortion because "tradition" tells us (for what its worth, and I think it has some merit) that the 06 era was something of a golden age for Canadian talent, so again the quality of the talent pool may well be out of proportion to its actual size during much of the 06 era. As you well know, the 1940's and the 1970's are the most questionable periods in NHL history. Ack...it's so hard to discuss such a macro topic in this format. There is so much conflicting information to weigh, and all conclusions end up being highly provisional. Ah well...no one ever said it was supposed to be easy.
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