The NHL has officially startsx celebrations for its 100th anniversary, starting with the Outdoor Classic in Toronto on New Year’s Day.
The Toronto Maple Leafs won a wild affair against Detroit, 5-4 in overtime.
We’ve already gotten into the spirit and published our 100 greatest players of all time. Purely subjective, but we think most would agree the picks were solid.
Since it’s a global game now, we got to thinking, who were the best NHLers to come from each country? Again, a subjective list that excludes greats like Vladislav Tretiak, who would have been a star in the NHL.
Looking at historical representation, Canada leads the list with over 5,000 (5,071 to be exact), naturally. The U.S. has put just over a fifth of that total in the league with 1,145. It’s a sliding scale from there, with talent born in far flung places like Japan and Lebanon.
So, we’ve come up with a pretty fair list that will include a team (two goalies, six defencemen, 12 forwards) each from Russia, Sweden, Finland, the old Czechoslovakia (combined), Europe (all other nations), the U.S. (two teams) and Canada (five teams: Maritimes, Quebec, Ontario, Prairies, B.C.).
Technically, German national Olaf Kolzig is from South Africa, Johannesburg to be specific. And even though he spent his formative years in Canada, he never applied for citizenship. So, when he was selected 19th overall by Washington in 1989 out of the Western Hockey League (Tri-City Americans), he would become the first player from Africa to play in the NHL. After three seasons bouncing between the AHL’s Baltimore Skipjacks and ECHL’s Hampton Roads Admirals, Kolzig would split three more campaigns between Washington and the minors before becoming the Capitals full time starter in 1997-98. He would have a career year in 1999-00, starting 73 games and winning the Vezina based on a 41-20-11 record, five shutouts, 2.24 goals against average and .917 save percentage. In all, he got in 719 games (all but eight with Washington), winning 303, with a 2.71 career GAA, .906 save percentage and 35 shutouts.