More Americans than Canadians in the NHL? It’s Already Happening

Photo: Minas Panagiotakis/Getty Images

Hockey, hotdogs, apple pie and Chevrolet? Well that might be stretching things a bit. But the fact of the matter is the percentage of Americans in the NHL has never been higher, and the percentage of Canadians in the NHL has never been lower, and the day that Americans make up a majority of the NHL is fast approaching.

For the first time in League’s 100-year history, the NHL consisted of less than 50% Canadians during the 2015-2016 season. That may seem like an unsavory trend to some of our Canadian readers, but good or bad, the slow transition has been underway for decades, with the crossover point coming in just a few years.

A Longtime Trend
According to the Winnipeg Free Press, in 1977-78, the NHL was made up of 87.5 per cent Canadians and just 8.6 per cent Americans. Thirty years ago, it was 76.9 per cent Canadians and 15.6 per cent Americans. Twenty years ago, it was 61.3 per cent and 16.5 per cent Americans. Ten years ago, it was 51.4 per cent Canadians and 22.1 per cent Americans.

And today? The gap is at its all-time narrowest — NHL rosters consist of 45.9 per cent Canadians and 26 per cent Americans. At the current pace, there will be more Americans than Canadians in the NHL by the year 2037, and many projections have the crossover occurring much sooner, by 2028. That’s just ten years.

Reasoning for the transition is many-faceted, but it’s also just a plain and simple numbers game to some extent. Canada is a population of 35 million while the United States has a population of 335 million. There’s simply a greater pool of potential hockey players.

So how will an Americanized NHL look? Probably not too different from today. In fact, we are already seeing it. Teams like the Winnipeg Jets are already fielding game rosters with a majority of Americans. (In a recent game, of the 24 players on the Jets’ roster, 10 were Americans, eight were Canadians, two Finns, a Swede, a Dane, a Russian and an Austrian.

Other potential changes are likely to occur with the League. The NHL Network is already headquartered in the New York area, and in the coming years, it’s likely you will see the League offices move from Toronto to the States as well. It’s likely more and more of the League’s organization structure will migrate south in the coming years.

The League’s top superstars will also start hailing from the United States, and we are already seeing this as well. (See Auston Matthews, etc.). In fact, two of the top three selling jerseys are U.S. born players. (Auston Mathews and Patrick Kane).

Other characteristics associated with the transition, such as the cultural affects on fans, transitional affects on businesses, etc. will take years to evaluate and determine, and will probably not be fully felt for decades to come.

In future posts, we will take a deeper look at the transitional affects on the League.

By Jon Sorensen

About Jon Sorensen

Jon has been a Caps fan since day one, attending his first game at the Capital Centre in 1974. His interest in the Caps has grown over the decades and included time as a season ticket holder. He has been a journalist covering the team for 10+ years, primarily focusing on analysis, analytics and prospect development.
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1 Response to More Americans than Canadians in the NHL? It’s Already Happening

  1. Diane Doyle says:

    While the Americanization of the NHL may or may not continue at its current pace, some things are obvious:

    1) There are more American teams in the league so that will inspire the children growing up in those regions to take up hockey.
    2) There already was a draft in 2016 where more players picked in the first round were from the St Louis area (including Matt Tkachuk, Clayton Keller, Luke Kunin, Logan Brown, among others. Brown was born in N. Carolina but raised in St Louis area)
    3) More players playing for American teams means more players settling in American cities where they raise their kids who end up considering themselves as Americans. (That accounted for Logan Brown and Tkachuk, although the latter was the son of Americans.) Plenty of American player today are children of persons born elsewhere, who came to America, either for hockey or another reason.

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