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Estimating How the Available Hockey Population Pool Has Changed (Goalies/Top Scorers)

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Old
08-18-2012, 01:16 AM
  #1
Czech Your Math
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Estimating How the Available Hockey Population Pool Has Changed (Goalies/Top Scorers)

This is a rather crude model based on a few factors/assumptions:

A) Canadian population data by age group
B) The proportion of Canadian and non-Canadian players as measured by each metric (% total GP by goalies, finishes in top 2N of players in points for scorers)
C) Hockey population was assumed to be 100% Canadian before expansion (i.e. goalies born outside Canada who played before 1968 were considered immigrants and part of Canadian population)
D) British Columbia population has been excluded until 1977, and increased linearly until fully integrated (for the youngest age group) in 1986. Therefore, the "prime" and older age groups do not begin to or become fully integrated until later years.
E) The Canadian hockey population pool is assumed to remain in fixed proportion to the relevant age groups of the the general population. The non-Canadian hockey pop. pool is assumed to vary in proportion to the proportion of non-Canadian players as measured by each metric and to the Canadian pop. pool.

It's meant to give a general idea of the possible hockey population pool at goaltender at various times, not be an exact model. However, I did try to be as accurate as possible, given the limited data and limited time I used to perform this study. The number on the Y-axis is thousands of males of hockey age (weighted by age group, with 100% of males 25-34 considered of hockey age), and the effective/implied number for the non-Canadian countries as a whole. I tried to keep the number on the y-axis relevant, but the more important concept is the proportionality between Canadians & non-Canadian, and from one era to another.



Last edited by Czech Your Math: 08-21-2012 at 05:36 PM. Reason: updated
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08-18-2012, 01:30 AM
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What do the values on the y-axis represent?

The one part of the graph that doesn't quite pass the smell test is the sudden increase in the growth rate exactly at the 1967 expansion. The expansion shouldn't have had a direct effect on the talent pool, right?

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08-18-2012, 01:58 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by TheDevilMadeMe View Post
What do the values on the y-axis represent?

The one part of the graph that doesn't quite pass the smell test is the sudden increase in the growth rate exactly at the 1967 expansion. The expansion shouldn't have had a direct effect on the talent pool, right?
The values on the Y-axis would be thousands of males of hockey age... except I didn't re-adjust them after weighting the numbers by age group... so it should probably be at least 50% higher, perhaps more, but the proportion is all that's really important in the grand scheme of things.

The number of teams does not affect the talent pool. Basically, the baby boom enabled expansion, and that is what you are seeing on the graph, the number of males of hockey age exploding around that time.

Now that I think about it, top line forwards may be very similar to this, except the non-Canadian portion would sharply increase in the early 90s to the level that goalies attained much later (depending on how one measured their impact) and then plateau. Grinders and possibly d-men may not have as much of an increase, although it would still be more/earlier than goalies, but may not reach the heights the goalies have in terms of % impact.

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08-18-2012, 02:04 AM
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This is the Canadian male population data (in thousands) from statcan.ca's site:

Year 15-24 25-34 35-44
1921 757 693 631
1931 990 779 707
1941 1,083 920 745
1951 1,070 1,065 949
1956 1,154 1,208 1,078
1961 1,316 1,258 1,191
1966 1,656 1,250 1,274
1971 2,016 1,462 1,286
1976 2,262 1,823 1,315
1981 2,356 2,106 1,497
1986 2,117 2,249 1,822
1991 1,944 2,420 2,176
1996 1,955 2,227 2,403
2001 2,034 1,967 2,517
2006 2,143 1,964 2,369

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08-18-2012, 02:29 AM
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This is the % of total GP by goalies that were by goalies born outside of Canada (actual, not averaged) since expansion:

Year Teams 1000/Team
1946 6 179
1947 6 181
1948 6 183
1949 6 186
1950 6 188
1951 6 190
1952 6 195
1953 6 200
1954 6 205
1955 6 210
1956 6 215
1957 6 218
1958 6 220
1959 6 223
1960 6 225
1961 6 228
1962 6 228
1963 6 229
1964 6 229
1965 6 230
1966 6 230
1967 6 240
1968 12 124
1969 12 128
1970 12 132
1971 14 116
1972 14 121
1973 16 110
1974 16 116
1975 18 108
1976 18 113
1977 18 116
1978 18 118
1979 17 131
1980 21 111
1981 21 114
1982 21 113
1983 21 115
1984 21 123
1985 21 129
1986 21 133
1987 21 134
1988 21 137
1989 21 139
1990 21 141
1991 21 143
1992 22 140
1993 24 131
1994 26 119
1995 26 121
1996 26 122
1997 26 127
1998 26 125
1999 27 117
2000 28 112
2001 30 107
2002 30 111
2003 30 114
2004 30 116
2005 30 121
2006 30 129
2007 30 138
2008 30 141
2009 30 144
2010 30 150
2011 30 165
2012 30 166


Last edited by Czech Your Math: 08-20-2012 at 11:35 AM.
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08-18-2012, 06:02 AM
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Two Goalie System

Quote:
Originally Posted by TheDevilMadeMe View Post
What do the values on the y-axis represent?

The one part of the graph that doesn't quite pass the smell test is the sudden increase in the growth rate exactly at the 1967 expansion. The expansion shouldn't have had a direct effect on the talent pool, right?
Two goalie system introduced four seasons before 1967 NHL expansion filtered down thru the hockey world effectively doubling the number of goalies per team.

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08-18-2012, 08:33 AM
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Iain Fyffe
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To be more precise, I suspect you should exclude British Columbia, at least until a certain date. Not sure what that date is, or whether fully excluding is the best idea. But the province has a large population and few players in the earlier years, so it could skew the results.


Quote:
Originally Posted by Czech Your Math View Post
This is the Canadian male population data (in thousands) from statcan.ca's site:

Year 15-24 25-34 35-44
1921 757 693 631
1931 990 779 707
1941 1,083 920 745
1951 1,070 1,065 949
1956 1,154 1,208 1,078
1961 1,316 1,258 1,191
1966 1,656 1,250 1,274
1971 2,016 1,462 1,286
1976 2,262 1,823 1,315
1981 2,356 2,106 1,497
1986 2,117 2,249 1,822
1991 1,944 2,420 2,176
1996 1,955 2,227 2,403
2001 2,034 1,967 2,517
2006 2,143 1,964 2,369

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08-18-2012, 10:38 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Iain Fyffe View Post
To be more precise, I suspect you should exclude British Columbia, at least until a certain date. Not sure what that date is, or whether fully excluding is the best idea. But the province has a large population and few players in the earlier years, so it could skew the results.
Thanks for the input. It appears BC had ~6-7% of the Canadian population in the early decades, so that shouldn't have too large an effect, although it's very possible BC's population was skewed toward younger males. Still, it's worth considering. When would you estimate BC began producing a significant number of hockey players, relative to its population?

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08-18-2012, 10:48 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Czech Your Math View Post
Thanks for the input. It appears BC had ~6-7% of the Canadian population in the early decades, so that shouldn't have too large an effect, although it's very possible BC's population was skewed toward younger males. Still, it's worth considering. When would you estimate BC began producing a significant number of hockey players, relative to its population?
this won't definitively answer your question, but i drew out all-time provincial line ups a few years ago, and noticed that 'good' NHLrs from BC didn't start to show up often until the 70's, with most of the big names coming after, let me estimate because it's been a while, 1985. This may suggest that kids hockey got going, to a solid degree, in the late 50's, and maybe was on par with the rest, per capita, by the 70's?

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08-19-2012, 12:09 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by tombombadil View Post
this won't definitively answer your question, but i drew out all-time provincial line ups a few years ago, and noticed that 'good' NHLrs from BC didn't start to show up often until the 70's, with most of the big names coming after, let me estimate because it's been a while, 1985. This may suggest that kids hockey got going, to a solid degree, in the late 50's, and maybe was on par with the rest, per capita, by the 70's?
Thanks for your input. Due to the suggestions from both you and Iain, I have made some adjustments to the formulas. I assumed BC had the same demographic as the rest of Canada (although this is almost certainly untrue) and excluded BC until 1977. From 1977-86, I assumed a gradual, linear integration of the youngest demographic segment.

I've also changed the scale, so that it represents thousands of males of hockey age (it's weighted by age group, with 100% of males 25-34 considered of NHL age, and over half of those 18-24 considered of NHL age). It should be noted that the non-Canadian pool is an effective/implied amount. The actual hockey age population of the non-Canadian countries is much, much larger, but they are not fully devoted to hockey in comparison to Canada. This is all captured in the calculations, so no actual non-Canadian population data was used, only the % of non-Canadian goalies.

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08-19-2012, 12:30 PM
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This gives an idea of the competition for goalie through the years. It's 1000s of males of hockey age per NHL team. One can see why the late 80s and early 90s is often referred to as a golden age of hockey. It's also apparent why the 70s were considered so diluted, given that the WHA siphoned off some talent. If/when I do a similar analysis of scoring forwards, I would expect the 90s to appear much stronger than they do in this analysis. It wasn't additional expansion or the lack of talent at forward that caused the "golden age" to end and scoring to decline dramatically, but other factors such as the lack of rules enforcement.

Year Teams 1000/Team
1946 6 165
1947 6 168
1948 6 170
1949 6 172
1950 6 175
1951 6 177
1952 6 181
1953 6 185
1954 6 189
1955 6 194
1956 6 198
1957 6 201
1958 6 203
1959 6 206
1960 6 209
1961 6 212
1962 6 215
1963 6 218
1964 6 221
1965 6 224
1966 6 227
1967 6 236
1968 12 123
1969 12 127
1970 12 131
1971 14 115
1972 14 120
1973 16 109
1974 16 114
1975 18 106
1976 18 111
1977 18 114
1978 18 115
1979 17 127
1980 21 108
1981 21 110
1982 21 109
1983 21 108
1984 21 116
1985 21 120
1986 21 123
1987 21 122
1988 21 124
1989 21 123
1990 21 123
1991 21 123
1992 22 121
1993 24 114
1994 26 105
1995 26 107
1996 26 110
1997 26 117
1998 26 116
1999 27 109
2000 28 105
2001 30 102
2002 30 106
2003 30 110
2004 30 113
2005 30 126
2006 30 139
2007 30 141
2008 30 144
2009 30 151
2010 30 167
2011 30 173
2012 30 168


Last edited by Czech Your Math: 08-19-2012 at 04:01 PM.
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08-19-2012, 03:59 PM
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I also excluded Peter Sidorkiewicz, Byram Dafoe and Olaf Kolzig from the group of non-Canadians, although they were born outside Canada. If anyone knows of any Czech, Finnish, Russian, Swedish or USA goalies which moved to Canada at a young age and primarily trained in Canada, then let me know, so that they can also be excluded.

I have a simplified model consisting of top scoring skaters, and will similarly exclude those who played multiple seasons in Canadian Juniors and/or minor leagues before the NHL. I excluded Paul McLean, Dany Heatley, Walt Tkaczuk, Claude Vilgrain, Willi Plett, Wojtek Wolski, Steve Thomas, Owen Nolan, Ivan Boldirev and Stan Mikita.


Last edited by Czech Your Math: 08-20-2012 at 11:50 AM.
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08-20-2012, 12:02 PM
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This is what I've come up with so far for top scoring skaters. I used basically the same assumptions as in the OP, with a couple of changes. First, I shifted the age distribution more to the left (younger), to reflect the much younger peaks that forwards and offensive d-men have compared to goalies. Second, I measured the % of non-Canadian players than finished in the the top 2N in points (N = number of NHL teams, so currently that would be top 60 in points). Since this data is slightly more erratic than goalies' GP, I used a 5 year average instead of a 3 year.



Last edited by Czech Your Math: 11-08-2012 at 02:13 PM.
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08-20-2012, 01:00 PM
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So, the goalie and top 2N scorer graphs have some similarities and some big differences. The top 2N scorers seems to have peaked, at least for now, and has started to decline, while the goalies took a while to get going and have really accelerated. I decided to average the results of each and graph the results:



I believe this gives a general idea of the total available hockey talent for these high impact positions. It suggests that the top talent from overseas was almost fully integrated about two decades ago and has remained relatively level since. I think these are two of the best ways to measure the effective non-Canadian talent pool, because top goalies and top scorers are more likely to come to the NHL, as opposed to 3rd/4th line type players who might choose to stay in their home countries.


Last edited by Czech Your Math: 08-21-2012 at 05:30 PM.
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08-21-2012, 12:52 PM
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this is a really valuable study.

regarding the first chart: I've always been one to say that you can't just take a 1st team all-star and multiply him by some sort of factor to determine what that is like in modern terms as far as " historical impressiveness" goes. But for players who rank, say, 20th, or 40th, or 110th in the world at a given time, the spikes have smoothed and they should be improving over time on a curve that looks similar to this.

So, if we're talking about the 20th-best player in 1934, is it fair to say that the data in the first chart says that he was about as relatively good as the 100th-best player in 2012? the factors they both sit at are about 1.0 and 5.0.

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08-21-2012, 01:56 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by seventieslord View Post
this is a really valuable study.

regarding the first chart: I've always been one to say that you can't just take a 1st team all-star and multiply him by some sort of factor to determine what that is like in modern terms as far as " historical impressiveness" goes. But for players who rank, say, 20th, or 40th, or 110th in the world at a given time, the spikes have smoothed and they should be improving over time on a curve that looks similar to this.

So, if we're talking about the 20th-best player in 1934, is it fair to say that the data in the first chart says that he was about as relatively good as the 100th-best player in 2012? the factors they both sit at are about 1.0 and 5.0.
Thanks, I'm glad you find it valuable.

The first chart only applies to goalies. I would use the last (third) chart as a better general guide to general "premier" players. That chart would suggest the 20th best player in the early 30s may have been roughly equal to the 100th best player in a season during the past two decades. There's various assumptions made and I leave it up to the individual to evaluate and decide how to further adjust based on their own assumptions. One might think the 20th best player in 1934 was actually more comparable to the 80th best player in 2012 or the 120th best player. Either of those seem very possible, depending on what assumptions are made. If one tries to say the 20th best player in 1934 was equal to the 20th best player today, or even the 50th best player, I would say that is highly, highly improbable.

I also want to mention why the last chart is the best guide for premier players, and very possibly is best in general. First, it's an average of goalies (which are clearly defensive) and top scorers (which are mostly offensive). That gives it some balance. Since teams generally have two goalies and there are an average of two top scorers per team (by definition), that also gives it some balance. Perhaps more importantly, these are players which are:

A) easy to measure their quality/value compared to other players, using %GP for goalies and finishes in top 2N in points for scorers.
B) most likely to leave for the NHL, since they are highly valuable, and therefore should receive near-maximum playing time and salary.
C) of the quality most frequently compared to one another

Defensive defensemen and grinders are not measured so well by these metrics, so it's more difficult to capture their impact. That's one reason I haven't done a more comprehensive measure, the other being it would take much more time. My intuition is that defensive defensemen and grinders may have had significantly less impact than this chart suggests, but this would likely be due to a combination of factors. Differences in coaching and styles of play may be one factor. Difficulty in scouting, especially in earlier years, is another. Also, as quality level decreases, it seems more likely that there may be substantial barriers. For instance, a player may not want to leave his home country to face many challenges (country, culture, language, minor leagues, etc.) when the benefits are uncertain (pay, length of career, playing time, etc.). Also, teams may rather choose a player who they've scouted, trained, coached and watched for a much longer time than a player from overseas, whose value is much less certain to them. IOW, the player may say "I am guaranteed a large role, with good pay, for a long time in my home country, where I am comfortable" and the team may say "we have been grooming a Canadian player for this role for some time and know he can fill the role properly." OTOH, they can't so easily replace a quality goaltender or a top tier scorer. The inclusion of U.S. players in the non-Canadian pool mitigates these factors to some degree, but since they are (very roughly) ~25% of the non-Canadian pool, it certainly doesn't eliminate these potential barriers.

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08-21-2012, 02:00 PM
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I agree that this is a very important study for historical research.

But the sharp increase in the slope of the line that corresponds exactly with the 1967 expansion has not been adequately explained

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08-21-2012, 02:08 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by TheDevilMadeMe View Post
I agree that this is a very important study for historical research.

But the sharp increase in the slope of the line that corresponds exactly with the 1967 expansion has not been adequately explained
I've tried to explain that it's basically the "baby boom" generation reaching the age which are most frequent for NHL players. I'm not claiming it's 100% accurate in magnitude, due to assumptions that had to be made and the limits of the data. However, the number of teams in the NHL has absolutely no bearing on the calculations for these charts. Look at this info, and tell me whether you think there was an increase in NHL-age population from the mid-60s to the early 90s:

Canadian male population in thousands
Year 15-24 25-34 35-44
1956 1,154 1,208 1,078
1961 1,316 1,258 1,191
1966 1,656 1,250 1,274
1971 2,016 1,462 1,286
1976 2,262 1,823 1,315
1981 2,356 2,106 1,497
1986 2,117 2,249 1,822
1991 1,944 2,420 2,176

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08-21-2012, 02:53 PM
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The charts both basically confirmed what many of us largely knew already, and were also surprising to me:

Goalies- I knew non-Canadian goalies took a while to really become a big factor (outside of Hasek and a few others), but until I saw it graphically, I didn't realize just how large a presence they had become over the past decade or so. Here is the % of GP by goalies from various countries:

Year Cze Fin Rus Swe USA Other Total
1975 0% 0% 0% 0% 3% 0% 3%
1976 0% 0% 0% 0% 3% 0% 3%
1977 0% 0% 0% 0% 3% 0% 3%
1978 0% 0% 0% 0% 4% 0% 4%
1979 0% 0% 0% 0% 1% 0% 1%
1980 1% 1% 0% 4% 2% 0% 8%
1981 3% 2% 0% 2% 3% 0% 9%
1982 0% 0% 0% 0% 1% 0% 1%
1983 0% 1% 0% 2% 0% 0% 4%
1984 0% 1% 0% 2% 4% 0% 7%
1985 0% 1% 0% 4% 11% 0% 15%
1986 0% 0% 0% 0% 11% 0% 11%
1987 0% 2% 0% 0% 9% 0% 11%
1988 0% 2% 0% 0% 9% 0% 11%
1989 0% 2% 0% 0% 11% 0% 13%
1990 0% 1% 0% 0% 6% 0% 7%
1991 0% 1% 0% 0% 8% 0% 9%
1992 1% 1% 1% 0% 8% 0% 12%
1993 1% 0% 2% 2% 10% 0% 15%
1994 2% 0% 4% 1% 10% 0% 17%
1995 3% 0% 6% 2% 0% 0% 12%
1996 2% 0% 5% 2% 13% 0% 22%
1997 3% 0% 6% 3% 13% 0% 25%
1998 4% 0% 7% 3% 10% 0% 25%
1999 5% 0% 9% 3% 7% 0% 23%
2000 5% 0% 5% 3% 9% 0% 23%
2001 10% 1% 7% 3% 6% 1% 27%
2002 10% 3% 8% 5% 6% 1% 34%
2003 9% 6% 7% 4% 2% 2% 30%
2004 7% 9% 5% 3% 4% 5% 34%
2006 6% 11% 5% 4% 7% 6% 38%
2007 7% 15% 5% 7% 8% 4% 46%
2008 6% 14% 8% 7% 8% 5% 48%
2009 6% 14% 7% 6% 4% 5% 41%
2010 7% 14% 7% 7% 11% 5% 50%
2011 11% 15% 8% 8% 12% 2% 55%
2012 9% 14% 9% 8% 12% 4% 56%

Top 2N Scorers- I had looked at similar metrics (top 5/10 finishes in goals/points, etc.), so this wasn't shocking. The recent drop seems due to the Czech/Slovak and Russian impact having peaked, as they really started dropping 3-4 years ago. The U.S. isn't as strong at the top as it was in the 90s, but the depth hasn't shown any significant drop, so that may more of an aberration.


Year Cze Fin Rus Swe USA Other Total
1977 0% 0% 0% 5% 0% 0% 5%
1978 0% 0% 0% 3% 0% 0% 3%
1979 3% 0% 0% 6% 0% 0% 9%
1980 2% 0% 0% 5% 2% 0% 10%
1981 5% 2% 0% 5% 2% 0% 14%
1982 5% 2% 0% 2% 2% 0% 12%
1983 5% 2% 0% 5% 2% 0% 14%
1984 2% 2% 0% 5% 12% 0% 21%
1985 5% 2% 0% 7% 5% 0% 19%
1986 2% 5% 0% 2% 14% 0% 23%
1987 2% 7% 0% 2% 7% 0% 19%
1988 2% 2% 0% 5% 12% 0% 21%
1989 2% 5% 0% 7% 10% 0% 24%
1990 0% 2% 2% 2% 11% 0% 18%
1991 2% 0% 5% 0% 20% 0% 27%
1992 4% 0% 4% 2% 18% 0% 29%
1993 4% 4% 8% 2% 14% 0% 33%
1994 4% 2% 11% 4% 11% 0% 32%
1995 2% 2% 11% 6% 13% 0% 33%
1996 12% 2% 12% 4% 17% 0% 46%
1997 12% 2% 13% 6% 13% 0% 46%
1998 10% 5% 14% 5% 14% 0% 48%
1999 13% 4% 15% 9% 15% 0% 55%
2000 19% 2% 11% 7% 12% 2% 53%
2001 18% 2% 12% 10% 18% 0% 60%
2002 13% 2% 13% 8% 15% 0% 51%
2003 18% 5% 12% 10% 10% 0% 55%
2004 20% 3% 6% 11% 14% 0% 55%
2006 14% 3% 11% 14% 10% 0% 52%
2007 13% 5% 13% 11% 5% 2% 48%
2008 11% 2% 11% 11% 5% 3% 44%
2009 10% 2% 15% 8% 11% 3% 48%
2010 3% 3% 11% 10% 11% 2% 40%
2011 9% 5% 6% 8% 14% 5% 47%
2012 11% 5% 6% 10% 11% 3% 47%

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09-07-2012, 11:04 AM
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Sorry I haven't been around to comment much, but I think you're doing a great job - you certainly don't have any holes in this study that are easy for me to poke through

I think that research into the size of the talent pool is one of the most important areas of historical research

The one point of criticism I can offer is that you aren't making a distinction between native Canadian population and first generation immigrants who didn't grow up emerged in hockey culture, correct? Much of Canada's growth since WW2 has come from immigration, and I don't think first generation immigrants should be considered as strong a hockey producing pool as Canadians who grew up immersed in hockey culture

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09-07-2012, 04:39 PM
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seventieslord
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Sorry I haven't been around to comment much, but I think you're doing a great job - you certainly don't have any holes in this study that are easy for me to poke through

I think that research into the size of the talent pool is one of the most important areas of historical research

The one point of criticism I can offer is that you aren't making a distinction between native Canadian population and first generation immigrants who didn't grow up emerged in hockey culture, correct? Much of Canada's growth since WW2 has come from immigration, and I don't think first generation immigrants should be considered as strong a hockey producing pool as Canadians who grew up immersed in hockey culture
Yes, this should be accounted for, although it would be difficult.

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09-07-2012, 07:39 PM
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Originally Posted by TheDevilMadeMe View Post
The one point of criticism I can offer is that you aren't making a distinction between native Canadian population and first generation immigrants who didn't grow up emerged in hockey culture, correct? Much of Canada's growth since WW2 has come from immigration, and I don't think first generation immigrants should be considered as strong a hockey producing pool as Canadians who grew up immersed in hockey culture
That's a valid criticism. There probably should have been some sort of adjustment made for net immigration (immigrants minus emigrants). It might be reasonable to completely exclude the net immigrant population from the hockey population pool.

The data is rather incomplete, which complicates things. It appears there is yearly data for immigrants, but emigrant data is only available by the decade or (more recently) in periods of five years. There also does not appear to be age data for immigrants.

I certainly think this type of study could be improved, and your suggestion is one way in which it could be.

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09-08-2012, 07:15 PM
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One means of estimating talent pools would be to go back to look at the youth registration records in the various countries. While this will not necessarily speak to NHL strength I think it can speak to what the skill level necessary. If there are 100K children playing hockey for a given age year and let's say, 60-70 openings for that are group in the NHL that will say something as compared to other similar numbers. Let us just assume that talent generally rises to the top.

The harder comparison will eras where "freedom of movement" and "tendency to move" is limited. Sure, the Euros play in NA now but they didn't used to... even now the KHL has an effect.

This may ignore the level of athlete who gets involved... you may generally have a stronger Canadian athlete pool because hockey is the thing to do... not so in the U.S. In either case, getting some metrics based upon age-group youth registration through the years may say something.

Will it? I'm not sure.

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09-08-2012, 07:44 PM
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One means of estimating talent pools would be to go back to look at the youth registration records in the various countries. While this will not necessarily speak to NHL strength I think it can speak to what the skill level necessary. If there are 100K children playing hockey for a given age year and let's say, 60-70 openings for that are group in the NHL that will say something as compared to other similar numbers. Let us just assume that talent generally rises to the top.

The harder comparison will eras where "freedom of movement" and "tendency to move" is limited. Sure, the Euros play in NA now but they didn't used to... even now the KHL has an effect.

This may ignore the level of athlete who gets involved... you may generally have a stronger Canadian athlete pool because hockey is the thing to do... not so in the U.S. In either case, getting some metrics based upon age-group youth registration through the years may say something.

Will it? I'm not sure.
The issue with this approach is that in the "old days," most youth didn't register - they just went out to play in the frozen ponds.

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11-08-2012, 01:37 PM
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Morgoth Bauglir
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Yes, it's difficult to say. Perhaps it's a wash, but I tend to believe there has been some compression of talent over the last ~35 years. Here is my general view (educated guess) as to how the NHL talent per team has changed since WWII:

before/during WWII- a relatively low population with often > 6 teams, which is then further diluted by WWII

late 40s to mid-50s- some players return from war, population increases, and talent per team roughly matches previous levels

mid-50s to early 60s- increase in roster size offsets continued population growth, so talent per team is diluted then makes it way back to roughly previous levels

60s- population increases further, and in the last few years before expansion, the talent really becomes compressed

late 60s to mid-70s- population increases further still, but massive and repeated expansion, as well as the WHA, serve to substantially dilute the talent per team

late 70s to mid-80s- NHL stops expanding, contract by one team, then absorbs WHA, while population continues to increase, all of which negate much of the previous dilution since expansion

mid-late 80s- Europeans trickle in further, and US becomes a significant source of talent again, which combined with lack of expansion further compresses talent

90s to present- hockey-age population seems to peak, while there is large influx of Euros/Russians... much of this is offset by expansion

Perhaps the overall talent per team is similar to the mid-late 80s, but I still tend to believe that there is more talent per team at the top. There were 21 teams then and 30 teams now, so the new talent would have to be ~30% of the current NHL for it to be roughly the same. The overall representation of US/Euro players probably hovers around that 30% mark, while the increase in their representation at the top has done so as well. Of course it varies by year and position. For instance, in the mid-late 90s, the top tiers of scoring forwards saw an increase of more than 30 percentage points, while expansion was still being completed (so the benchmark would be < 30%). Meanwhile, goalie representation was much less than 30% during that time. Since the lockout, top forwards have dipped under the 30% mark, while goalies have easily surpassed that level.
Ok, that sounds reasonable. Any chance of a study being done on it? I'd seriously like to read through it if one gets done.

As an aside, in an appendage to his book "The Game", Ken Dryden posted numbers regarding how many kids are playing lower-level hockey (ie the talent pool the pros draw from) as of 2003:

Canada: 532,000
United States: 425,000
Sweden: 63,000
Czech Republic: 50,000
Finland: 45,000
Russia: 40,000

Now Dryden doesn't provide a footnote for his source for the data, but taking it at face value, is there any way that it can be shown just how much the talent pool has grown in proportion to how much the NHL has expanded?

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