The NHL has the most international players of the four North American major leagues.
In November 1917 the National Hockey League had not yet been established and the Russian Revolution was just beginning.
The NHL welcomed its first foreign player in 1965. By that time, 20 years had passed since the end of the Second World War and Russia was the only country to have sent a person into space.
With foreign-born players dominating the NHL in a way never seen before, the league is now the most globalized one in North America.
From which countries are NHL players?
It is not surprising that Canadians are the core of the NHL despite the influx of international players over the last 50 years.
On the NHL’s roster for the opening game of 2019-20, there were 690 players. 295 came from Canada. This is almost half, 42.8%.
With 24 NHL teams located in the USA, it’s not surprising that American players are the NHL’s second largest group.
This season, 177 American players were named to the opening-night teams. That’s just over one-quarter of the league.
The NHL has 472 players, or 68.4%, who are from Canada and the USA.
This means that 31,6% of NHL Players are not from North America. Instead, they come from Europe.
In Europe, the most dominant countries are Sweden with 79 players (the second largest country), Finland with 33 players (third largest), Russia (31) players (third largest), Czech Republic (26) players (fourth largest), Switzerland (11) players and Slovakia (9).
All of these countries, except Switzerland, are traditional hockey powers.
The NHL is becoming more globalized.
What is the NHL compared to other sports like football?
The number of international athletes has increased in all major North American sports leagues over the past few years.
However, the NHL has a greater proportion of foreign players (31.6%) than the NBA, NFL, and MLB.
MLB doesn’t lag. 245 out of 882 opening-day roster players in 2019 came from outside North America and the USA, which is 27.8%.
92 stars from around the world made up 20.9% of the NBA’s opening-day rosters for the new season.
It is not surprising that the NFL has the lowest percentage of players from outside North America. Only 43 or 2.5%, of its 1,696 opening-day roster in 2019, came from countries other than North America.
This is because American Football, which has a large number of leagues in North America and Canada, and hockey, baseball, and basketball, all have professional leagues around the world NHL betting public percentages.
It’s interesting to see that the NFL, despite having a lower proportion of international athletes than the NHL, has a greater variety of players.
The NHL has the least number of nationalities among the four major leagues. In comparison, NFL and MLB have 23 different nationalities each, while the NBA is at 37.
Again, this can be easily explained. All three sports can be played with little or no equipment in almost any weather condition. The only equipment needed for hockey is skates and a skating rink. It’s primarily played in colder climates.
Has the NHL evolved?
To fully understand why the NHL has become the most internationally-dominated league in America, we must look at how things have changed since 1965.
In 15 years after Sterner was signed by the Rangers’, European players entered the draft and were selected for the All-Star Game. They also won the Stanley Cup.
At the end of the 1980s, there were only 49 international players in the NHL. This represents 12.25%.
In 1989, the world changed.
The Quebec Nordiques made the number one pick of the Entry Draft that year. Mats Sundin was the first non-North American player to make that selection.
Only the NBA was the only major league to draft a player born abroad with their first selection. MLB didn’t do this until 2012 and the NFL has yet to adopt this policy.
As executives began to realize the talent available on the other side of the Atlantic, they sent a flood of players from abroad into the NHL.
By the beginning of 1999-2000, international players had tripled in just 10 years. The NHL now has 157 players from countries outside North America, which makes up 29 percent of its rosters.
Since the NHL’s founding in 1996, the number of foreign-born NHL players has increased. In 2019, 218 were named to the NHL’s opening day rosters. Hockey is the most popular American sport for international participation.
There are many signs that this trend will continue.