Take a look around the NHL, the top professional ice hockey league in the world, and you will find just two current players born in Great Britain. Great Britain can claim several ex-NHL stars were born in either Scotland, England, Wales, or Northern Ireland. Yet, you can count the number of British born players to appear in the NHL during the current century on just two hands. NHL fans can visit this bookmaker ahead of every game to wager on their favourite hockey teams this season.
British ice hockey is on the rise but players plying their trades in the world’s biggest league are still rare. England’s Brendan Perlini and Wales’ Nathan Walker are the only two players born in Britain on active NHL rosters. So, why does Great Britain have just two NHL stars?
Although ice hockey has a long history in Great Britain and players appeared in the NHL dating back to 1917 with Joe Hall (Montreal Canadiens) and Ken Thompson (Montreal Wanderers), the current professional league in Britain is rather new. The Elite Ice Hockey League is less than 20-years old and is still growing. The new NHL season will drop the puck in October. Hockey fans can follow the action and use the Black Type coupon to wager on their favourite teams when they take to the ice.
Compared to the NHL, KHL, or the various leagues in Scandinavia and eastern Europe, the EIHL is a baby in the sport. It doesn’t have the ability to draw top-quality players as many of the other leagues around the European continent, which not only hinders domestic player development but causes the league to lack some of the appeals it would otherwise have.
British children are also not exposed to ice hockey in the same way as kids from North America or northern Europe. A lack of facilities, coaches, and games to watch prevents kids from learning and taking up the sport. For Great Britain to have had seven players play in the NHL in the last 20 years is quite remarkable.
Growing the sport
The EIHL currently has 10 teams playing across England, Scotland, Northern Ireland, and Wales. Some of the league’s teams have a long history that truly shows the strength of ice hockey in certain areas. The Fife Flyers trace their history back to 1938, while the Nottingham Panthers were founded in 1946. Newer hockey clubs such as the Manchester Storm (2015) and Glasgow Clan (2010) may not have the history of the league’s other teams, but their locations in population centers give them a chance to grow the game to a large degree.
In 2018, the EIHL stated ice hockey was the “most-watched indoor sport” in Great Britain. Unfortunately, that statement is a little as we don’t have a lot of indoor sports in Britain that people actively seek out to watch.
However, the EIHL is right about the fact that ice hockey is rising in popularity. It may never reach the same heights as football, it doesn’t need to, but it can still carve out a niche in the British sporting landscape far bigger than the one it has now.
As ice hockey grows in Britain and more kids are exposed to it through clubs, it is likely more players born in Great Britain will play in the NHL. Rumours of an NHL team being put in London have made rounds over the years. Even without a franchise in the United Kingdom, ice hockey will continue to grow and players develop. Perlini and Walker may be the only British-born players in the NHL right now, but in 10 years’ time, that number could be far bigger.