Hockey is a global sport, with players from all over the world competing in the NHL. As an American and NHL fan, you probably wonder What percentage of NHL players are American?
American born active players make up (28.1%) of NHL playing players by 2022-23 stats. That means 208 American-origin players are currently playing in the NHL and have played 74,182 games over their career, making them the second highest in the NHL. They are ahead of Sweden and behind Canada.
Although NHL is commonly known as the Canadian sport, the game is truly a global sport, where players worldwide are hailed. America is the second country with an enormous number of NHL players after Canada. However, NHL is now becoming more USA. The NHL and its franchises have become the focus of the United States.
Let’s see how the Americans came this far.
American NHLers Percentage over the Decades
Ice hockey is not on the increase in America just in years. It’s a process of decades. NHL is Canadian-originated, but it’s surprising to know that out of 32 NHL teams, 25 are American based. Even four out of six “Original Six” NHL franchises are from the USA.
In early NHL times, America was catching up slowly, but there was a rapid increase in American percentage. In 1917, the earliest phase of the NHL, there were only a few Americans. In 1970, the American ratio became merely 2.3%, and Canadians had a majority of 96.1%. They had a hold on the NHL.
And by 2022-23, Canadians had over 42.3% of players, and America reached 28.1%. According to the experts, the gap is decreasing over time, and by the year 2028, Americans will soon overcome the Canadians in the NHL.
How Has Hockey Popularity Rise In the USA?
A few Events and some steps done by NHL have played a significant role in the rise of hockey in the USA that had laid a firm foot into the American sports environment.
1. NHL Expansion
- 1967 – Pittsburgh, Minnesota, Philadelphia, Los Angeles, St. Louis, Oakland
- 1970 – Buffalo Sabres
- 1972 – Atlanta, New York Islanders
- 1974 – Washington, Kanas City
The addition of all these teams has increased the American number of franchises in the NHL from the original four to 15, and now the number has become 25 out of 32 NHL teams. Not many of these teams have survived, but they spread the game exposure to different American states. And once the youth is exposed to something exciting, they tend to join it, and many of those young players eventually get into the NHL.
2. Ice Miracle
Miracle on the ice is one of the most significant milestones for expanding ice hockey in America. For those new to ice hockey, it is for you to know that the ice miracle happened in 1980 when the USA Olympic team became victorious over the most favorite Soviet Union team in the semifinals on their road to receiving the gold medal.
This significantly impacted American youth as it was the backdrop of Capitalism vs Communism and the Cold war. It dramatically gained the attention of the nation. Many kids now in the NHL and have become big American NHL stars had watched that match and joined the NHL. They are probably the first Americans in the NHL. The most famous names are Mike Modano, Leetch, Roenick, and Tkachuk.
3. Trading of Gretzky to Los Angeles in 1988
Trading of Wayne Gretzky from the Edmonton Oilers to the Los Angeles Kings in 1988 was perhaps one of the significant impacts on the expansion of American hockey. Gretzky’s trading instantly drove hockey to national-level fame.
One of the most important marks that these events gave to the NHL is that the NHL started to expand America’s warm states immediately in the next decade after the Gretzky trade. Such as Anaheim, Dallas, San Jose, Tampa Bay, Carolina, Arizona, Miami, and Nashville – a sharp momentum was seen after the Wayne trading. Clasp to his Fame!
Some wonder how the kids from these states play out and make their way to the NHL.
Auston Mathews is the current example and answers to this question. Born in California and growing up in Arizona, both are warm states, Mathews become an Arizona Coyotes fan. And with this passion, he became one of the most famous and highest-paid players in the NHL.
Other examples are the Jones brothers from Texas, Tennessee’s Blake Geoffrion, and Matt Nieto of Long Beach.
How Did The USA Hockey Players Reach To The Higher Level?
USA hockey worked on two main things that brought their players to the high spots in the NHL.
- Youth participation in the hockey game
- Development Approach
Youth Participation Level
When seeing the 2021-22 hockey players drafted level in the NHL, the Americans came second after the Canadians in the world. 547,429 players were registered from the USA, and 621,026 were recorded from Canada, with only a tiny difference between Canada and America.
The 2019 drafted players have boosted American Hockey, as the Devils’ first overall pick was Jack Hughes. He was born in the warm climate of Florida. Hence he famed two teams at a time, Florida Panthers and New Jersey Devils.
The USA is behind Canada’s development approach and high-end cutting programs. To enhance its coaching staff, USA started a cutting-edge program in 2009. Its purpose is to have age-restricted coaching development and coaching certifications.
Also, they launched high-end teams like the USA under-18 development team. Looking at the NHL drafts, you will find that most players are developed by these programs and then succeed in joining the NHL.
Prominent American Talent in the NHL
Moving to conclude this topic, the one last and worth mentioning point is that America is not only giving a vast number of players but also producing outstanding talent in the NHL world. Both quality and quantity are present in them.
Some most remarkable star players are:
And many more. These all combine made a fantastic group of Young talent. And people expect more from USA hockey of their speed growth in the NHL.
All I hope and expect is that the USA will not produce more players in the coming seasons but also show notable talents. And probably in the next decade, the USA will be the hockey-dominating country in the world. Now they are second in rank.
However, one thing they are lacking is that America has not produced any long-line generation stars like Wayne Gretzky, Mario Lemieux, and Crosby. But I hope soon they will show a big superstar – coming soon!
The Bottom Line on What Percentage of NHL Players are American?
Well, America still has not hit the 30th milestone in their percentage of active NHL players. But the American presence has stride over the past decades are continuously marking their strong presence. The USA will cover this gap and prove they have an elite class of young players worldwide in the coming years.
What do you say? What is your opinion on this? I would like to hear from you. Thanks!