This is a Wednesday War I wish I didn’t have to wage…
Some background info…
It’s safe to say that Minnesota knows hockey. And we love it. Minnesota has a long and successful history of producing and developing some incredible hockey players.
On the youth side:
We have 13 districts with 132 youth hockey programs across the state. Minnesota has its own junior hockey league (I’ll admit, not as prestigious as the USHL or Canadian major juniors), with a total of 8 teams. And there are 157 MN boys’ high school hockey teams in this state – numbering somewhere around 6,500 hockey players. Our State Hockey Tournament dates back to 1945. And is the “it” event of the year.
In the college world:
5 of the 12 WCHA teams are “Minnesotan.” Currently, in the WCHA, arguably the best college hockey conference in the U.S., there are 101 MN natives playing on “MN” teams. 79 WCHA players are NHL draftees. 36 of those draftees are MN natives. And 17 of those MN native NHL draftees are Gophers.
Based on my calculations – 17 MN natives play in the CCHA. 2 of them are NHL draftees. For as long as I could handle searching the Atlantic website, I made it through three teams and found 14 MN natives. My search of the ECAC (AKA the EZAZ) found 16 MN boys playing out there – though that number may be a bit skewed since the Union website was sub-par and I couldn’t tell if the kid was native to MN and played at SSM or if he had just played for SSM and was from somewhere else…I also was too lazy to check Hockeydb.com. And then Hockey East – there are 12 MN natives. 3 of whom are also draftees.
All of that – that info – took quite a while to gather. Be proud, people.
The point – right, sorry – Minnesota, as a state knows the sport of hockey. And we produce some incredible hockey players. Versus polls, websites, blogs, and Yahoo Answers says that MN produces the MOST hockey players of ANY state. And the best. MN has the most NHL draftees. The most hockey players playing college puck. And absolutely the best high school hockey program in the U.S.
I’m not even going to talk about MI and MA. Is MI on the list because of Ann Arbor? Because the USNTDP is not comprised solely of MI kids. And east coast hockey is not going to be discussed here, either.
Despite the large amounts of NHLers, past, current, and future, I still don’t get it. I don’t get two MN teams: the Gophers and the Wild.
Now, before you jump down my throat, I don’t hate those teams. I love their existence. I am a Gopher fan – in an unpopular Gopher hockey era. But why? Why, with the number of high quality players that we MAKE in this state, do our two MINNESOTA teams suffer? The Gophers have MN boys and still suffer. Too many leave too early for the pros (I could write a post on that topic alone). And for the Wild, they just aren’t recruiting those MN natives. Well, they draft them and trade them. Something I don’t quite understand. (* I am well aware that the Wild are fairing quite well…at the moment: 16 in the league, 9 in the Western Conference, and 2 in the NW division – but that’s not the point of this post).
So. To stick with my Wednesday War format here.
Side one: Minnesota
Settle down here. Raise your kids here. And put them in youth hockey at age 3. It won’t guarantee they’ll win the Hobbey or the Hart someday, but it will guarantee that they’ll be exposed to the best hockey in the U.S. They will be coached by the best. They will play with the best. And they will have a chance to go on to greatness.
Minnesota is a great place to raise hockey-playing kids. Opportunities abound – youth, high school, Shattuck, juniors, college, pro. They can do it all here. Right in this state. The state that will make them great.
Side two: Minnesota
Minnesota can mold players to be the best. Minnesota sends them off to show off their greatness to the world – juniors, World Juniors, college, minors, pro.
But we struggle to keep them on our own teams. To make Gopher teams of greatness. To keep our Wild fierce and competitive. Is it because we don’t have enough MN boys playing at the X? Or because we have too many MN boys playing at Mariucci? Is it because too many MN boys are so good they can go on to better NHL teams? Is it because too many MN boys are so good other college coaches want a chance to work with them – to see how great Minnesota is?
I don’t know. I’m not even sure what I’m arguing any more.
Because I’m confused. Minnesota hockey is confusing me. And I’m not sure where it starts or ends. Who to blame or who to thank.
All I really know is that Minnesota knows the sport of hockey.
But we’re waging a war against ourselves. A Minnesota Civil War of hockey.
*Disclaimer – I did a lot of late-night-after-work research on this sucker, so any mistakes in numbers/stats is all my fault.