Hockeytowns: Where NHL Players Come From
This season marks the 50th since the Toronto Maple Leafs — one of hockey’s storied franchises — lifted the Stanley Cup. In the midst of a rebuild —they’re coming off a last place finish— it’s unlikely that their drought ends this year. They will take the ice today with hope for a better day soon, led by a group of young players that includes Auston Matthews, delivered from hockey’s Sun Belt boom.
While its professional team may struggle, Toronto excels at one thing in hockey — producing NHL players. 57 players on NHL opening night rosters (plus injured reserve) come from the Greater Toronto Area — almost two and a half times as many as any other place. On a per capita basis, the Greater Toronto area produces more than 1 NHLer per 100,000 residents, greater than all but 2 cities in the top 10 overall. While more and more players come from non-traditional hockey markets, Canada, the northern US, and traditional European powers still produce the bulk. 48% of the 732 players on opening night rosters are Canadian, and the biggest producers of NHL players are metro areas with a long hockey tradition.
Players From Each Metro Area With An NHL Team
Top 10 Cities Overall for Producing NHL Players
- Toronto, ON (57)
- Minneapolis-St. Paul, MN (23)
- Vancouver, BC (22)
- Montreal, QC (22)
- Edmonton, AB (20)
- Detroit, ON (20)
- Stockholm, SWE (15)
- London, ON (14)
- Calgary, AB (13)
- Boston, MA (13)
If one city sticks out on that list, it’s London, Ontario, population 475,000. The city is a junior hockey powerhouse — the London Knights are the defending Memorial Cup champions. The area itself produced more NHL players than all but 7 other metro areas — each of which is more than 1 million people.
Unsurprisingly, London leads the way in per capita rankings — players produced per 100,000 (for metro areas 100,000 or above). Canadian cities from Ontario and the Prairies sweep the top 10. Only 2 NHL cities (Edmonton and Winnipeg) make the list, and Edmonton leads the way amongst metro areas of more than 1 million (the only one in the Top 10, in fact).
NHL Players Produced Per 100,000 Residents
- London, ON (2.95)
- Sudbury, ON (2.49)
- Regina, SK (2.37)
- Edmonton, AB (1.72)
- Kitchener-Waterloo, ON (1.68)
- Winnipeg, MB (1.64)
- Barrie, ON (1.60)
- Windsor, ON (1.57)
- Saskatoon, SK (1.53)
- Guelph, ON (1.42)
For areas of less than 100,000, Canada again leads the way, with Thunder Bay , ON (6 — only 3 of whom are Staals), Brandon, MB (5), and Belleville, ON (4) producing more than a couple of NHL players. Also on this list is Gavle, Sweden, with 4 NHLers calling this city’s area home.
A few other facts:
- NHL players come from 18 different countries.
- The oldest (Jaromir Jagr) was born in 1972; the youngest (4 in total) were born in 1998 — the year Jagr won his second Art Ross Trophy.
- The median birth year of an NHLer is 1990 — the year Jagr was drafted (the mean is 1988.997).
- The most common birth year is 1991 (71 players), followed by 1992 (68) and 1990 (66).
The Changing American Map
While the traditional American hockey hotbeds — Minneapolis-St. Paul, Detroit, Boston, Chicago — produce the most players, we’re starting to see more and more players from the rest of the country. 8 players grew up in the Los Angeles area, and 7 in St. Louis. Both cities have a half century of NHL tradition, but are only recently starting to produce NHL players en masse. They now rank ahead of cold weather cities like Buffalo and Pittsburgh, and not far behind the New York City area.
NHL Cities Ranked, by Players Produced:
- Toronto (57)
- Minneapolis-St. Paul (23)
- Vancouver (22)
- Montreal (22)
- Edmonton (20)
- Detroit (20)
- Calgary (13)
- Boston (13)
- Winnipeg (12)
- Chicago (12)
- Ottawa (10)
- New York City (10)
- Los Angeles/Anaheim (8)
- St. Louis (7)
- Buffalo (5)
- Pittsburgh (4)
- Miami (2)
- Denver (2)
- Columbus, Phoenix, Philadelphia (1)
- Dallas, Nashville, San Jose, Tampa Bay, Washington (0)