When you look at the wide variety of nations that produce hockey talent, it’s quite possible that NHL is truly the most “worldwide” of sports leagues. We could debate that point, but there should be little doubt that the mixture of European and North American players benefits the game as a whole on a profound level.
Yet when it comes to Canadian hockey fans, they still want to see their regional teams stocked heavily with their “own.” The Ottawa Citizen published some interesting poll results which reveal that the majority of Canadians would prefer their area teams to meet a certain “quota” of Canadian-born talent. Especially when you’re talking about the Canadiens.
Nationally, 53 per cent of the respondents in a survey commissioned by the Montreal-based Association for Canadian Studies said they agreed with the idea that Canadian-based NHL teams should have a minimum percentage of Canadian players.
Nearly three-quarters of the French speakers polled — 72 per cent – agreed with having a minimum percentage of Canadian players on the country’s six NHL teams: the Vancouver Canucks, Edmonton Oilers, Calgary Flames, Toronto Maple Leafs, Ottawa Senators and Montreal Canadiens.
Only 46 per cent of English-speaking respondents felt the same way.
While 69 per cent of Quebec respondents agreed with the concept, support was lower, but still significant in other parts of the country: Atlantic Canada (54 per cent), Alberta (51 per cent), B.C. (47 per cent), Ontario (46 per cent) and Manitoba/Saskatchewan (45 per cent).
It’s human nature to root for your own, so to speak. (That probably explains why I always grin when I see the Irish Guy from “Oz” on the mediocre insurance company commecials he shoots now.)
Still, I imagine that fans only focus on the nationality of their team’s players when those teams are losing. Something tells me that Habs fans were able to reconcile the fact that Jaroslav Halak is Slovakian when he helped them get to the Eastern Conference finals. Stocking Canadian teams with Canadians – especially an even more specific group such as French-Canadians – isn’t so easy in a 30 team league with an annual entry draft.
The days of nabbing Jean Beliveau and Maurice Richard-type talent without getting No.1 picks or shelling out big bucks are over, but some fans seem like they’re still struggling to accept that.