International Ice Hockey Federation

Regional bragging rights

Regional bragging rights

Ontario, Minnesota lead way with Sochi stars

Published 20.02.2014 22:41 GMT+4 | Author Martin Merk
Regional bragging rights
Ontario's Meghan Agosta-Marciano was named tournament MVP in Vancouver 2010, while Minnesota's Zach Parise hopes to captain the U.S. to gold in Sochi 2014. Photos: Andre Ringuette, Jeff Vinnick / HHOF-IIHF Images
Canadian provinces and U.S. states often have more rinks and players than entire European nations. Let’s look at how their talent is distributed in Sochi.

To put it all in context, North America is home to more than a million registered hockey players, according to IIHF statistics. Canada, the 2010 Olympic gold medalist, has more than 625,000 players, while the U.S., which claimed the silver in 2010, has over 510,000.

Seven of Canada’s 10 provinces contributed at least one player to the 2014 Olympic team.

For Canada’s men, hockey-crazed Ontario, home to nearly 40 percent of the national population of 35 million, leads the way with 10 players. That’s an increase over the 2010 squad, which had eight Ontarians.

Somewhat surprisingly, British Columbia – Canada’s westernmost province with its mildest weather in the Pacific Coast population centres of Vancouver and Victoria – is second with five players. The 2010 team only had two BC boys, defencemen Shea Weber and Brent Seabrook.

What’s most notable about Quebec supplying four players? It was once known as Canada’s goaltending factory, and all three netminders on the 2010 team in Vancouver – Roberto Luongo, Martin Brodeur, and Marc-Andre Fleury – were from La Belle Province. But this time, only Luongo is back. The demographics have changed.

Next in line is Saskatchewan (3), while Alberta and Manitoba have one player apiece. In 2010, the three Prairie provinces, historically known for their tough, hard-hitting players, contributed seven guys in total, including powerful veteran forecheckers like Jarome Iginla and Brenden Morrow, who are not on this squad.

There’s one player from Nova Scotia, a relatively well-known fellow named Sidney Crosby.

As for the United States men, seven of the nation’s 50 states are represented on the roster. That’s perhaps less diverse than one might anticipate, considering players from 17 different states were taken in the 2013 NHL Draft.

It’s no surprise that Minnesota has supplied more talent than any other state for this tournament. Eight skaters, including captain Zach Parise, hail from the North Star State, a longtime hockey hotbed.

But check out how the distribution of talent has changed since the fabled 1980 “Miracle on Ice” gold medal run in Lake Placid.

Back then, a whopping 13 Minnesota college players put on the Stars and Stripes uniform for coach Herb Brooks. He had to work hard to get them to overlook their traditional rivalry with Massachusetts. That state contributed four players that played in the landmark 4-3 victory over the Soviet Union, including goalie Jim Craig and captain Mike Eruzione, who tallied the winner.

Cut to 2014, and there are no Massachusetts players on Team USA. That’s a surprise.

It is, presumably a statistical blip, as the New England state had seven players taken in the 2013 NHL Draft, more than any other American state.

New York State (6) is second to Minnesota, and is highlighted by Chicago Blackhawks superstar Patrick Kane (Buffalo) and Los Angeles Kings captain Dustin Brown (Ithaca).

Tied for third place are Michigan and Wisconsin (3). The latter currently can boast the NHL’s highest-scoring American forward, Phil Kessel (65 points for Toronto), and its overall ice time king, Ryan Suter (averaging 29:49 per game with Minnesota).

Connecticut and New Jersey have two players apiece, while Paul Stastny is the lone representative of Missouri. The Colorado Avalanche centre grew up in St. Louis, as his father, Slovak hockey legend Peter Stastny, completed his NHL career with the Blues and then became a team scout.

On the women’s side, it’s all about Ontario (10) and Quebec (6) for Canada. Perhaps not coincidentally, three of the five Canadian Women’s Hockey League franchises are located in those eastern provinces: the Brampton Thunder, Toronto Furies, and Montreal Stars.

With Alberta providing two female players and Manitoba and Saskatchewan one apiece, it’s quality over quantity for the Prairies. The most notable names are all-time leading women’s hockey scorer Hayley Wickenheiser (Shaunavon, Saskatchewan) and 2010 Olympic all-star goalie Shannon Szabados (Edmonton, Alberta).

The American women are a considerably more diverse lot, with 10 different states represented.

Massachusetts gets its due here, contributing a team-high five players. Head coach Katey Stone and her two assistants all hail from the Bay State. The national team did most of its on-ice pre-Olympic training at The Edge Sports Center in Bedford, Massachusetts, while off-ice workouts took place at MSBC at Woburn, Massachusetts.

Wisconsin and Minnesota are tied for second (3), while Ohio, Illinois, and New Jersey are third (2). New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Idaho, and Arizona each chipped in one player.

Forward Lyndsay Fry, who grew up captaining youth teams in Chandler, Arizona, is the only Sun Belt product on either U.S. roster, showing that hockey still remains strongest in the northern regions.

Of course, regional pride will be put aside in favour of national solidarity when the Canadian and American women face off for gold tonight, and when their male counterparts do battle in the semi-finals on Friday.


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