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03-17-2013, 07:39 PM
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Expansion and Immigration

Originally Posted by Big Phil View Post
There was talk in the early 1960s of expanding the NHL. So even back then there was the thought that the talent pool was getting bigger. Canada's population was growing as well as did the enrollment in minor hockey. Just because other countries hadn't caught up by the 1970s it doesn't mean Canada's population wasn't expanding. I think you have to take that into account here too. Then other countries starting to get better, hence 21 teams in the 1980s. Then the 1990s came around and there were 26 teams and now 30. If you see the NHL now I still don't think the talent pool has caught up with 30 teams. That's a lot of teams.

And has Canada dropped since the days when we were producing all the best players? Yes, I think we have. For example, the immigrants who came to Canada back in the day were often European and had the flavour of hockey in them to begin with. It was likely that they would teach their kids hockey over here too. You are seeing more immigrants come into Canada from non-hockey countries and the odds of their children growing up making the NHL is slimmer than before. I'll admit there are nice stories about Nazem Kadri's father from Lebanon falling in love with hockey once he came over here which led to Nazem turning out the way he did, but there are other options other than hockey today and Canadians are pursuing that. Hockey is still king here by a country mile, but yeah, I think there are less kids per capita playing organized hockey than there used to be.

It is a combination of Canada dropping a bit and other countries getting better. It still leads to great players either way.

Besides, I always think these points are moot once we look at the careers of some all-time greats. Ray Bourque dominated in two decades and was a first team all-star in his first and last season. No doubt there were some changes in nationality from 1979 to 2001 in the NHL. No matter. A true great is going to be great either way. Mario? Peeled through the NHL in 1989, 1993, 1996 and 2001. Each year had more Europeans than the next one. No matter. Gretzky happened to retire at a time when the explosion was at his peak. In a blended NHL he led the league in assists two times in his last three years in the late 1990s and everyone knows he was half the player he used to be.

Can we end the silly notion that a player's nationality matters in the grand scheme of things? Jagr is another good example and proof that a great hockey player is a great hockey player regardless of where he is from. He dominated in the NHL all over the place. Dead puck era, before the dead puck era, and after the 2004-'05 lockout against a young Crosby and Ovechkin. With that skillset, if he was from Alberta it wouldn't have made a difference.

Canadians are dominating the scoring race this year in a way we saw them do it in the 1980s. If this holds up I know you or I wouldn't find that relevant but would others?
There was talk of reviving the NY Americans and expansion to Cleveland - Jim Hendy in the late '40s/1950s. Lack of a suitable arena, not talent was the obstacle.

The post WWII immigrants, eastern Europeans, Italians, Greeks, Britain, etc did not have the "flavour of hockey" in them. No hockey in the Soviet Union pre September 1939 or during WWII. Likewise Greece and Italy had not hockey history.

The kids of such immigrants learned hockey at the various community centers where they would go after school while both parents worked or at night while the parents were studying English.

In Toronto you still see the heritage today, over 100 years old:

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