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IIHF says European participation in NHL continues to decline

I’m never sure whether to take these “studies” at face value. The IIHF’s Andrew Podnieks and Szymon Szemberg claim that the number of European players participating in the NHL has declined for yet another season, because as they publis their report/statistical analysis, there’s an implicit dig being levied at the NHL for completely draining the Czech and Slovak republics of any hope of a developmental system, which was the charge levied at the NHL by the IIHF at the “World Hockey Summit”:

The number of Europeans in the NHL in 2010-11 continued the steady decline and is now the lowest in eleven years. The only country which goes against the trend is Sweden. There were a whopping 63 Swedes in the NHL this season, the highest number ever for the blue and yellow. In all, there were 978 players who played at least one game in the National Hockey League during the 2010-2011 regular season. Of that number, 224 were Europeans, a 22.9 percentage share.

As well, there were only 36 of 139 players in the league this year from Europe who played their first NHL games (25.9 per cent). Most disturbing is that some of hockey’s traditional centres were so poorly represented. For instance, of the 139 first-game players only two were from the Czech Republic and Finland, and only one from Slovakia. There were just six Russians, and again Sweden led the way with 16 newcomers to the NHL, almost triple second place Russia.

The numbers confirm the continuous decline of NHL Europeans, a trend which has been evident since the 2004-2005 lockout season. The season prior to the lockout saw a record 300 Europeans (almost 30 percent of all NHLers) play in the league.

The numbers since then have been steadily decreasing: 263-259-242-242-228 to 224 this season. There are three primary reasons behind the decline:

  * The dramatic drop of players with NHL potential in the Czech Republic and Slovakia.
  * The reluctance of NHL teams to draft players from Russia.
  * The Russian KHL, where many Russians, Czechs, and Slovaks opt to play.

Keep in mind that the IIHF represents European ice hockey interests, and that they’ve repeatedly suggested that it’s unfair for NHL teams to sign European players who end up playing in the minor leagues to adjust to North American hockey, arguing that the NHL’s teams should simply wait until prospects have matured with their respective country’s professional league’s teams, and are ready for a guaranteed spot on an NHL roster.

This isn’t a report as much as it’s numbers proffering politics, and the message won’t be twisted to a contextual, “Well, these things go in cycles, and sometimes Canada and the U.S. produce more players, and especially given the fact that the NHL’s CBA allows teams to retain the rights of NCAA-bound prospects for four years, it makes sense that the pendulum’s swinging the North American way for the present moment.” It’s going to be spun into something negative about the NHL’s relationship with Europe, and it’s going to be used to proffer some sort of IIHF-based transfer agreement instead of the NHL-brokered ones between countries like Sweden, Finland and Germany and the NHL directly.

The World Championships are about to get underway in Slovakia, so the timing of this report, right before the IIHF’s biggest moneymaking endeavor occurs, is…Interesting.

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About The Malik Report

The Malik Report is a destination for all things Red Wings-related. I offer biased, perhaps unprofessional-at-times and verbose coverage of my favorite team, their prospects and developmental affiliates. I've joined the Kukla's Korner family with five years of blogging under my belt, and I hope you'll find almost everything you need to follow your Red Wings at a place where all opinions are created equal and we're all friends, talking about hockey and the team we love to follow.