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12-01-2012, 10:32 AM
Big Phil
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Are the Americans going to overtake hockey in our lifetime?

The Toronto Sun has been doing some articles recently about this. There is lots of talk about American kids gravitating towards hockey more and more now. The numbers of the kids being drafted can't be ignored anymore either. It is culminating with a player like Seth Jones set to go 2nd overall in the 2013 draft. He's been a blue chipper for a while and you would think since his father played in the NBA he would have played basketball right? Wrong. This trend is continuing in the States and more and more natural athletes are playing hockey.

Now, a couple things. We've heard this for generations. 1980 was supposed to have kids play hockey by the hoards with the Miracle on Ice. Then Gretzky goes to L.A., then the USA wins the World Cup. I don't think we have really seen the fruits bear from 1996 yet but that 1996 World Cup team was littered with guys who watched the Olympics in 1980. So it takes a bit of time.

The only thing I see is that the volume of Americans coming into the NHL seems to be getting larger and has spiked.

2011-'12 Canada 53% USA 23%
2001-'02 Canada 54% USA 15%
1996-'97 Canada 62% USA 16%
1991-'92 Canada 71% USA 18%
1986-'87 Canada 77% USA 15%

For a long time the number of Americans stayed stagnant. It didn't move. Now it's moving upwards. Not at the expense of Canadians so much because they've had 50-55% of the NHL for a decade now but more or less we are seeing less Eurpoeans in the NHL.

I guess the issue here is that there are no more top flight Americans in the NHL despite the growing volume of players. In fact, I think around the mid to late 1990s is when the Americans had the most elite players in the NHL that they've ever had and once that generation died out there hasn't been the stars to take their place. Witness the roster of the 2010 US Olympic team vs. the 1996 World Cup team. The elite players just aren't there. Yes, they gave Canada a scare in 2010 but on paper they didn't have a team in the same universe as Canada but in 1996 they were very equal. This is the thing I don't understand because there should be more elite Americans if there are more Americans but it is almost reversed. These were the Americans in the top 20 in scoring:

2011-'12 - Kessel (6), Pominville (19) (Pominville was Canadian born)
2010-'11 - Kesler (16), Kane (18)
2009-'10 - Kane (9), Parise (16), Stastny (18)
2008-'09 - Parise (5)

Other than that, an American has never won the Art Ross and the closest it ever happened was 20 years ago, not recently. An American has never won the Hart Trophy unless you want to count Hull, which is weak. It has been 15 years since an American won the Norris. The Vezina saw them get three in a row recently and the Smythe saw them get the last two, but the only other Smythe is Leetch in 1994.

So what are your thoughts here? Are the Americans threatening Canada's game or are they further away then they have been in 25 years? What is your take on the growing number of Americans playing in the NHL and why it hasn't translated to more elite players. Is it only a matter of time? Will the Crosbys and Ovechkins of the NHL soon be American?

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