ZURICH – Two years ago the number of European players in the National Hockey League dropped its lowest level in 13 years. Since then however, the numbers have rebounded in a big way as 236 Europeans – 24 per cent of all NHL players – competed in the league.
Two years ago it was 196 Europeans who played at least one game during the NHL regular season. That’s a two-year growth of over 20 per cent.
From the nine nations represented with three or more players, only two (Czech Republic, Germany) saw a drop in player numbers.
Sweden had the biggest growth in absolute numbers and remains Europe’s top producer of NHL talent with 79 players, which means that every third European player in the NHL is Swedish.
The Czech Republic follows in second place with 38 players, which, however, is the lowest number the country has had in 17 years. During their peak in the world-best hockey league, the Czechs had 80 players in 2002/2003. Russia (35) and Finland (32) are in the hunt to take over the number-two position.
In relative numbers Switzerland and Denmark had the biggest growth. Switzerland had a record number of 12 NHL players (eight in 2011/2012) same as Denmark with eight NHL players (six in 2011/2012).
Slovakia’s recently declining numbers saw a turnaround going up to 18 players – the highest in four years.
In total athletes representing 17 nations played in the National Hockey League led by Canada and the United States. All are among the 16 countries that will play in the 2015 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship in Prague and Ostrava, Czech Republic, with the exception for Lithuania. The Baltic country whose national team is ranked 26th in the world is represented by Dainius Zubrus.
No players who started to play in other continents are currently playing in the NHL. Japanese goalkeeper Yutaka Fukufuji is the last Asian player in the league. He played for the Los Angeles Kings seven years ago. Nathan Walker is working on becoming the first Australian player in the NHL. He was signed by the Washington Capitals last year and played for their AHL affiliate Hershey Bears.
Europeans in the NHL 2013/2014:
1. Sweden 79 players
2. Czech Republic 38
3. Russia 35
4. Finland 32
5. Slovakia 14
6. Switzerland 12
7. Denmark 8
8. Germany 6
9. Austria 3
10. Belarus, France, Latvia 2
13. Lithuania, Norway, Slovenia 1