NHL Players by Country – What Percent of the NHL Is Canadian

Posted on March 1, 2024 by Dan Kent
Canada Flag in Hockey Place

The NHL has a lot of Canadian players, but it isn't the only country sending players to the league. Lets take a look at the statistics in this article.

Over the years, hockey has become one of the most popular sports. However, every country has different favorites when it comes to sports, which means the make-up of the professionals at the top of their leagues can heavily lean towards one country. Despite this fact, players in the National Hockey League (NHL) still come from all around the world, which makes looking at the statistics quite interesting. 

What is the NHL?

The National Hockey League, or NHL for short, is the premier North American competitive hockey league. Players from all around the world strive to become a part of this league to have a chance at winning the coveted Stanley Cup

A common mistake for those new to hockey is mixing up the NHL with the AHL. While the former is the premier major professional league, the AHL or American Hockey League is the premier minor professional league, which is responsible for launching many players into the NHL. 

What countries have the most current NHL players?

While the National Hockey League headquarters are in New York City within the United States, Canada is represented by the most players in the league by a wide margin, followed by the United States. As of 2023, there were 445 active Canadian hockey players, which, to put it into perspective, is 444 more players than Slovenia, which has the least amount of players in the league. The Montreal Canadiens and the Vegas Golden Knights are the two teams with the most Canadian players in the league. 

What percentage of NHL players aren’t American?

The exact number may vary depending on how many players stay active. Still, as of right now, data shows that there are 1,059 total players in the NHL from across different countries worldwide.

Of all the NHL players, 298 are credited as being from the United States, meaning 761 players are from other countries worldwide. Based on this information, 72% of players in the NHL currently are not American. 

When we look at the USA and Canada, we come to 742 players total, or around 71% of active players in the National Hockey League.

Which hockey teams have the most and least American players?

As mentioned, 298 players are credited as being from the United States across all NHL teams. Going further, the Boston Bruins are the team with the greatest number of Americans on their team. In contrast, the Detroit Red Wing team has the least number of Americans on their team. Interestingly enough, they're both Original 6 teams.

Other teams, like the Edmonton Oilers or Tampa Bay Lightning, tend to have a more even ratio. 

What percentage of the NHL is European?

To determine the percentage of the NHL that is European, it's first crucial to remove the number of Canadian and United States players from the total amount. Once this is done, 316 players are remaining in the count.

However, one of those players is credited as being from Australia, meaning 315 players out of the total 1,059 are from a European country. On a percentage basis, this means that around 30% of players in the National Hockey League are European.

Ironically, there are more players in the NHL from Europe than from the United States, despite the league's headquarters being in the U.S. 

Why do most hockey players come from the U.S. and Canada? 

Most hockey players in the National Hockey League come from Canada and the United States, with the former being the source of the most players. The reason for this stems from the origin of the game itself.

While this origin is murky at some points, Canada is credited for ice hockey's invention sometime in the 1800s. Specifically, the Halifax and Montreal regions of the country are where it is believed the game first developed.

As the sport grew in popularity within the country, it eventually spread to the rest of North America. It became equally popular in some parts of the United States. This led to the formation of the National Hockey League in 1917 in Montreal as the successor to the National Hockey Association.

From there, cities within the United States began to apply for franchises in the league, which served as the foundation for modern teams such as the New Jersey Devils, Florida Panthers, Los Angeles Kings, and more. 

Shifting demographics: Where hockey players are beginning to come from today

As mentioned, Canada is the leading producer of hockey players because the sport was founded in the country and because they are responsible for founding the National Hockey League. However, just because countries such as France, Austria, or the Netherlands aren't topping the NHL draft in terms of players doesn't mean they don't offer any. 

For example, Sweden is a country that also offers a fair amount of players to the National Hockey League, with teams such as the Minnesota Wild, San Jose Sharks, Toronto Maple Leafs, and more having boasted top players.

Additionally, Russia has been supplying an increasing number of Russian players to teams in the league. Aleksander Barkov is a notorious player who is both Russian and Finnish, going to show that the Russians offer up amazing competition in the league as well.

Regardless of whether a team boasts more American players, Russian players, Canadian players, or any other nationality, the NHL creates a stage for hockey players to make a name for themselves.

Many of the greats, including Wayne Gretzky, played years in the league in the hopes of winning the coveted Stanley Cup. No matter the breakdown of a team's players, it's never about the country they are from but rather the skills and effort they bring to every game they play for their team. 

One of the most significant aspects of sports is that they can bring people worldwide who may not have other common interests. Whether a person is from Switzerland, Denmark, Latvia, the United States, Canada, Norway, the Czech Republic, or some other country from around the world, anyone can be a champion in the NHL. Start refining your skills today if you dream of eventually joining the league and competing against the best of the best.

Dan Kent

About the author

Growing up in a hockey hotbed (Calgary, Alberta. And yes, I'm an Oiler fan), I decided to put my love and knowledge of the game to work. I started at five and am still playing today into my early 30s. By acquiring Brave Stick Hockey and rebranding it to Big Shot Hockey in 2023, I plan to teach people about this great game and educate them on the best equipment and history of the game. On a career level, I am in finance, running one of the largest financial websites in Canada, Stocktrades.ca.

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