Hockey is becoming even more American
by Saralyn Norkus, Banner Sports Writer
Jul 04, 2013 | 1229 views | 0 0 comments | 69 69 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Happy Fourth of July, folks!

I know it may have turned into a rather soggy one, but hopefully you all have found ways to celebrate despite the less than stellar weather!

In keeping with the spirit of the holiday I’d like to take the time to discuss some of the United States’ achievements in the sport of hockey — and yes, I do realize that hockey is considered a “Canadian” sport! Hold on, I promise this will come full circle or at least I’m hoping it will as I type this!

This year we saw the Chicago Blackhawks face off against the Boston Bruins in what was one of the most exciting Stanley Cup Finals I’ve seen in quite a few years. If you didn’t manage to at least watch one of the six games you missed out on some of the best that hockey has to offer, and this is coming from a diehard Detroit Red Wing and Pittsburgh Penguin fan!

Two of the Original Six hockey teams facing off in a heated battle for the best trophy sports has to offer, it was truly a beautiful thing even if I’m not a huge fan of either 2013 finalist.

Yes, hockey is a Canadian sport by origin, but let’s take a look at the Original Six a bit closer. The teams that started the NHL were the Toronto Maple Leafs, Montreal Canadiens, New York Rangers, Detroit Red Wings, Boston Bruins and the Chicago Blackhawks. If you were paying attention you would have already noticed that there are only two Canadian teams listed.

While the Canadiens and the Maple Leafs have the most Stanley Cup wins in history, with 24 and 13 respectively, it has been 20 years since a Canadian based team won the Cup. The Red Wings have won 11 times, which makes them the U.S. team with the most wins.

In 2010 U.S. citizens made up 20.5 percent of NHL players, and by 2012 that number had bumped up to 23.1 percent. Sure the rosters are still heavily made up by Canadian players, but the U.S. has seen its fair share of players to be proud of — Mike Modano, Jeremy Roenick, Keith Tkachuk, Brett Hull, Zach Parise and Chris Chelios, to name just a few.

In 1980 we had the Miracle on Ice (remember the movie “Miracle” with Kurt Russell? Yeah, that was based on a true story) where the considerable underdog U.S. Olympic hockey team won gold at Lake Placid. This was such an impressive feat that in 2008 the International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) named it the “Number one story of the past 100 years.”

Since 1920 the U.S. has won three gold medals; two coming from the men and one coming from the women. For those of you who have a more limited hockey knowledge here’s a fact for you: It’s the Russians, not the Canadians, who have won the most gold medals in ice hockey.

In this year’s entry-level draft three U.S. citizens were selected in the first round, with Nashville selecting American Seth Jones fourth overall.

Time for another fun fact: Jones is the son of Tennessee born former NBA player Popeye Jones.

Jones was one of 53 U.S. natives selected in the 2013 draft, with our boys making up 25 percent of the players drafted. The United States Developmental program saw 31 of their 2012-13 players as well as nine alumni get picked this year.

In the past 10 years, the IIHF World Under 20 championship has been won three times (2004, 2010, 2013) by the United States.

Hockey has gained a foothold in the U.S. and the youth programs are flourishing as of late. A flourishing youth developmental program translates into a deeper, and more talented pool of future NHL players.

Minor league teams have popped up all across the county, such as the Southern Professional Hockey League that has teams dotted throughout the South. Just one hour north of us are the Knoxville Icebears who can boast about playing in front of sellout crowds for the past few years.

Hockey may not be “America’s Game,” but it’s popularity is sure on the rise throughout the States.

Last fun fact for the day: Canada’s official national sport is actually Lacrosse. Your mind is blown right now, I know.

That’s all I’ve got for you today, folks. Again, I want to wish everyone a great Independence Day! Stay safe and keep the drunken firework hijinks to a minimum.