Much is made about how expensive hockey is to play and we also see so many families that have produces multiple NHL players (this upcoming draft features a bunch of sons of former NHLers). The vast majority of NHL players come from middle-upper class backgrounds. I'm wondering if anyone knows of any players that overcame the socioeconomic odds to become great hockey players. The only former one I can think of is John Madden who grew up in public housing, and took a long road to the NHL that involved working his way all the way up from lowly Junior C.
Alexi Kovalev in mother Russian. Born an orphan the Russian circus took him in and to make ends meet as a teenager he often had to take seven minute shifts on stage on a sheet of ice, Or so the legend goes anyways.
Metropolit grew up in a single-parent family in Regent Park,a public housing project in one of the toughest neighbourhoods in Toronto. He started playing hockey at a local arena when he was 8, but there was no money for travelling teams, no chance to play at the higher levels of minor hockey.
"I played high school hockey because I couldn't afford anything else," said Metropolit, who noted he had friends who provided him with hand-me-down skates and other equipment. "I couldn't travel or play in the summer. It was like that for a lot of kids I knew. There were a lot of good hockey players in Regent Park, but there weren't a lot of stable family situations and they didn't have the means to play."
Metropolit's big break came when he was 17 and his closest childhood friend was invited to play for a Junior B team in suburban Richmond Hill.
"He was highly scouted for this Junior B team and he said: 'Why don't you try out?' Deep down inside, I thought I was as good as him. I made the team at the last cut. My second year...
You cannot write such a thread and not mention Glen Metropolit and John Madden (each grew up a year apart in a different Toronto housing project - Metropolit in the Regent Park socialized housing, and Madden in the Parma Court socialized housing). Both were undrafted.
Glen started out in the IHL and ECHL, and eventually ended up playing 407 NHL games for several teams, and is currently playing in Switzerland. By contrast, his brother Troy is serving a life sentence for killing an inmate while he was initially serving a 14-year sentence for another gruesome. John could barely afford to play youth hockey and his coach had to pay his expenses for one year. The Devils' drafting of Brendan Morrison and Madden's playing at Michigan provided what ended up being the stroke of luck for Madden's eventual 898-game NHL career, winning 3 Stanley Cups and the 2001 Selke (Madden was first noticed when the Devils were monitoring Morrison's development).
Huh?? Maybe that's true in the U.S. or Europe, but in Canada I saw the working class "skids" dominate the rink, they pretty much intimidated the middle-upper class kids out of the game.
There's history behind this too ... up through the 70s, NHL coaches such as Punch Ilmach would not even consider having a player with any education on the team.
In Canada, it's still a lot of middle and upper class kids. Think how many Canadian NHLers have bloodlines running through the NHL - those kids all pretty well grew up in upper and middle class environments. The times have changed, equipment's gotten a lot more expensive and ice times are more expensive than ever.
About 10 years or so ago there was a young boy who lived in the Russian city of Kazan. His name was Alexander. Even though he was about eight at the time, he excelled in hockey. Unfortunately, there were problems with hockey equipment, or lack thereof. So some friends asked Pavel Datsyuk to help. And he did, sending some professional hockey sticks and skates to the boy Datsyuk had never even met.
Right now that boy, who also happens to be a former first round draft pick, is a star forward for the Winnipeg Jets. His name is Alexander Burmistrov.
To make the NHL now in Canada, you need to pay quite a bit once your kid gets to near 10 if he's any good in terms of having the best coaches. Just playing competitive hockey itself is too costly for the majority of people now especially if you have more than one kid playing. So the majority of kids who are playing aren't necessarily rich but you certainly need to be able to afford it or have parents make the needed financial sacrifices. It's a huge reason why immigrants even in Canada rarely get involved in competitive hockey past a certain age even if they want to.
It's kinda sad and I personally know or have heard of quite a few that have had to 'hang up the skates' and just play at basically a rec level at an early age because of the $ + time committment. It's not like they would've gone on to become NHLers but they always sound pissed/disappointed because they were good enough to keep going but basically just became high school hockey players at best.
His mother worked at a grocery store and his father worked as a facilities manager for a Halifax law firm. A chance encounter with a local paper at age 7 put Crosby on the map...and the rest, as they say, is history.