In 2002, embarrassed by the performance of their young national teams in major international tournaments, the leaders of the Swedish Federation took part in an important reflection with stakeholders from all regions of the country.
As a result of this exercise, Swedish hockey has given birth to a vast reform focused on the enjoyment of children and the development of individual skills.
From this change of course, the results have been absolutely spectacular.
In 2000-2001 there were 36 skaters and 1 Swedish goalkeeper among the NHL starting players. Between 2001 and 2005, an average of 16.8 potential Swedish customers were selected by the league teams.
This season, 65 skaters and 4 starting goalkeepers have played in the NHL. This is a giant 86.5% increase from the situation that prevailed before the Swedish hockey review. Furthermore, from 2016 to 2020, the average number of Swedish players enrolled was 27.6, an increase of 64.28%!
This strong trend was spotted from a different angle by the creators of Pass Hockey, Ugo Bélanger and Jonathan Deschenes.
In recent research, Bélanger and Deschenes attempted to determine which country was more effective at developing elite players than the pool of players available.
Their conclusions were that Sweden and Finland are
remarkably ahead of other countries in the development of goalkeepers. which is Sweden
remarkably ahead of other countries in the development of defenders and in first place, ahead of Canada, in the development of forwards.
Over the years, this Swedish hockey progression has come naturally. From 2001-2005 to 2006-2010, the number of Swedish potential customers claimed by NHL clubs increased from 16.8 to 19.2. It then increased to 23.8 from 2011 to 2015, then to 27.6 in the 2016-2020 period.
Before going further, a clarification is required here.
The goal of a sports federation is to create the most stimulating environment possible so that as many athletes as possible can thrive and maximize their potential in the practice of their sport. Because the fun usually comes from the progress athletes make. A federation’s priority, therefore, is not the training of NHL players. Absolutely no.
On the other hand, it is interesting to use the recruitment statistics of organizations because it is the most sophisticated tool there is for simultaneously measuring the skill level of hockey players from all countries. Collectively, NHL teams invest hundreds of millions each year to uncover the best talent in the world without discrimination. The data from the repechage are therefore extremely valid. End of accuracy.
This reflection also takes us to Finland, another country that has undergone a major overhaul of its minor hockey system. The reorganization of the Finns, on the other hand, took place in the early 2010s, 10 years after that of the Swedes.
It is relatively recent.
Between 2001 and 2010, the Finns saw the number of their potential customers selected by NHL teams drop by more than 50%. It had gone from 16.8 to 8.2. To revitalize their hockey system, the Finnish federation executives have chosen to rely on the hiring of permanent regional coaches, better supervision of volunteer coaches and skills development at an early age. This method also produced excellent results.
In 2000-2001, there were 24 Finnish skaters and 1 goalkeeper playing in the NHL.
This year, 31 skaters and 7 starting goalkeepers were members of the league.
This is a 52% increase from the start of the millennium. In terms of recruiting, Finns saw an average of 18 of their prospects recruited by NHL teams between 2016 and 2020. That’s a 119.51% (!) Increase from the low recorded in 2006-2010.
All of this brings us to the killer question.
If Sweden and Finland have managed to gain so much ground over the past 20 years, there will surely be other countries that have regressed. who are they?
In the research that the founders of Pass Hockey shared with me, the authors noted that the number of games played by Canadian goalkeepers has decreased by 20% over the past 20 years. There was also a 5% drop in games played by Canadian defenders and a 10% drop in games played by Canadian-born forwards.
When you take a look at the NHL draft stats, the numbers are even more disturbing.
- In 2000-2001, there were 301 Canadian skaters and 31 goalkeepers playing regularly in the NHL. And during the period 2001-2005, an average of 115.6 potential Canadian customers were chosen annually at the amateur auction.
- This season, 254 skaters and 19 goalkeepers have played in the NHL, which represents a drop of nearly 18% since the early 2000s. In addition, between 2016 and 2020, an average of 74 potential players were selected in the draft. Canadian customers. This 36% decline is far from trivial.
Of the big countries in the hockey world, Canada is the only one that has experienced such a regression with NHL decision makers. We also remember that this judgment of the sector is expressed without emotion by companies that are motivated only by the search for the best talents available.
Definitely deserves a good reflection. It may not just be the way Hockey Canada handles sexual assault allegations that the federation needs a dust off.
And it is perhaps because the new leaders of Hockey Quebec are more proactive than their colleagues in other provinces that we are heading towards a reorganization similar to what Sweden and Finland have done.