Hockey is a global sport, and the NHL comprises different players from many nations. One of the countries with the highest percentage of NHL players is America.
What percentage of American players are there in the NHL? Apparently, American-born athletes make up 24.8% of the NHL’s roster for the 2019–2020 season.
With 157 players of American descent participating in the NHL, that makes them the second-highest group behind Canada (42.7%) and in front of Sweden (12 percent).
Let’s examine the background behind these figures and how the Americans arrived at their current position.
Percentage of Americans in the NHL over the Decades:
Over the years, the proportion of American players has not been significant. This may come as a surprise considering that four of the six “Original Six” franchises are American, while two-thirds of the NHL’s teams are based in the U.S.
For instance, at the beginning of the 1970s, only 2.3 percent of NHL players were Americans, with Canadians being the vast majority (96.1 percent).
Prior to the 1970s, when the NHL truly began to grow, there were very few American players in the league, which was founded in 1917.
The number of American players in the NHL has grown significantly and steadily since 1970.
How has the popularity of hockey grown in the US?
The following events have contributed to hockey’s increasing popularity in the United States:
1. NHL Expansion
Below is a breakdown of each franchise from the United States that was added to the NHL and the year they joined the league.
1967 – (St. Louis, Minnesota, Pittsburgh, Los Angeles, Oakland, and Philadelphia)
1970 – Buffalo
1972 – Atlanta and the New York Islanders
1974 – Washington and Kansas City
The NHL now has all of these additional franchises, bringing the total number of teams in the US up to 15. The increase in the number of teams has contributed to the expansion of American exposure to the game of ice hockey.
Additionally, it has been demonstrated that individuals will participate in the game after being enlightened about it. This is precisely what occurred in the US as teams shifted into these areas; young people there began playing the sport, and some of them eventually made it to the NHL.
2. Miracle on Ice:
This could be considered the pinnacle of American hockey history. For those of you who are unfamiliar with hockey, the Miracle on Ice occurred in the 1980 Olympic semifinals.
During the tournament, the USA Olympic team beat the much favored Soviet Union team. Hence, they advanced to the finals and won the gold medal.
The dramatic and cold war backdrop of capitalism vs. communism captured the nation’s attention. Roenick, Leetch, Modano, and Tkachuk were among the young fans who watched the game.
Subsequently, they became the first significant American starters in the NHL. These guys can all recall their whereabouts during that game.
3. Gretzky Move to Los Angeles Kings:
In 1988, Gretzky was moved to the Los Angeles Kings. The transaction that brought Wayne Gretzky from Edmonton to Los Angeles in the summer of 1988 may have had the most significant effect on American hockey.
Hockey was forced into the national spotlight when Wayne was traded to LA, and it quickly gained notoriety as one of the trendy things.
The most amazing thing it accomplished was assisting the NHL in expanding into states with warmer climates over the course of the 10 years.
The NHL would subsequently expand and gain franchises in Nashville, San Jose, Anaheim, Carolina, Arizona, Tampa Bay, Dallas, and Miami.
We expect more southern NHL players to start arriving soon, as the nascent leagues in those warm-weather areas have had a few decades to build around these franchises.
What steps has USA Hockey taken to boost the number of players at higher levels?
The US has effectively gotten the job done by utilizing these two effective methods:
Levels of Participation:
The United States ranked second (behind Canada) globally for registered ice hockey players in 2018–19. In comparison to Canada’s 621,026 registered players, the US had 567,908.
This implies that the US has made efforts to ensure that individuals take hockey activities seriously. If the people who play Hockey in the states increases, then the number of those aspiring to make it to the NHL will increase.
In a nutshell, the higher the level of participation, the higher the number of potential professionals in the states.
The US did lag behind Canada for a very long time in terms of their elite coaching and development systems. In 2009, USA Hockey introduced an advanced development program.
This included age-appropriate coaching development and coaching certificates. They also started elite hockey teams, such as the USA Under-18 development team.
Many American NHL players went through this system before being drafted into the NHL. Indeed, this has been one of the most effective strategies that have produced many young talents in the game.
What is the talent level of the Americans in the NHL?
A last point, which I believe is essential to make, is that USA Hockey is not just producing more players, but players of exceptional caliber.
Auston Matthews, Matthew Tkachuk, Seth Jones, Johnny Gaudreau, Charlie McAvoy, John Gibson, and Quinn Hughes are just a few of the fantastic young American players you can find in the game.
Certainly, the United States will continue to produce more top-tier talent. They might even overtake Canada as the premier hockey nation in a few years time.
Even if you observe today’s hockey talents, you would see that the US players are probably second to Canadian hockey players in the current rankings.
They have managed to become more sophisticated than Swedes or Russians. Notwithstanding, the United States hasn’t yet produced a generational superstar on the level of Gretzky, Crosby, Orr, Lemieux, or Howe.