Monday, February 20, 2012

Player Nationalities for Hockey Day Across America

Yesterday, the NHL participated in USA Hockey's Hockey Weekend Across America with their own Hockey Day Across America activities.  For hockey fans, such as myself, it is great to see the sport of hockey being promoted in the United States.  The day featured some great games on national television, and had special events around the country to encourage kids and families to try out hockey for the first time.

The television line up featured three great games:  St. Louis Blues vs Chicago Blackhawks, Pittsburgh Penguins vs. Buffalo Sabres, and the  Detroit Red Wings vs. San Jose Sharks. There was only one disappointment however -- the Red Wings dominated the airwaves yesterday.  (Full disclosure:  I am a St. Louis Blues fan which means I am very much biased against the Red Wings.)  In fact, Laura (@hildymac), from the blog Thrashing the Blues, and I had a Twitter conversation about this most disturbing aspect of HDAA.  As an out-of-town Blues fan, it is rare that we get to see them on national TV.  After all, the Blues/Blackhawks rivalry is a great rivalry, and as Laura duly noted there were quite a few US born players on both the Blackhawks and Blues teams.  So why not give  the Blues/Blackhawks game more national coverage instead of giving it mainly regional coverage?

This got me to thinking...

Exactly what were the nationalities of the players playing during the nationally televised games on HDAA?  If it is Hockey Day (Weekend) Across America, wouldn't we want to feature matches that showcased the best talent from the United States?

So my conversation with Laura inspired me to do some research and put together this quick data viz featuring the nationalities of the players who were on the roster for the nationally televised games on Hockey Day Across America.  Keep in mind, I used the rosters (including scratches) only because hockey teams swap out players on a regular basis, and I needed some way to keep the number of players consistent.  Don't be surprised when Crosby doesn't show up on the list of players for Pittsburgh.  He wasn't on the roster.  Check out the rosters for yourself on the NHL website.

Some of the results are expected.  Obviously, most of the players playing yesterday came from Canada, and then from the United States.  In fact the Buffalo Sabres had the most U.S. players on their roster yesterday.  But the big question, which match-ups had the most U.S. born players?  Well, take a look at the bottom chart. It is clear that the Buffalo/Pittsburgh game had the most U.S. players on the roster yesterday, with Buffalo having the highest percentage of their roster from the U.S.  The St. Louis Blues and Pittsburgh Penguins have the next highest percentage of players on their team from the United States and the Blues/Blackhawks game had the second most number of U.S. players on the roster for HDAA.

So the two match-ups that had the most U.S. players on their rosters for Hockey Day Across America were the two games that were treated as regional broadcasts instead of full nation-wide coverage.  Granted, the numbers are close (14, 10, 9, 8) but the percentage of players on the roster from the U.S. should also be taken into account.

Now, I fully realize why the Red Wings/Sharks game was chosen to be the game broadcast nation-wide.  But in the future, the NHL and NBC Sports might want to consider actually highlighting games that feature the most U.S. talent for future Hockey Day Across Americas.

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