European hockey coaches are complaining that their young stars are coming to North America’s minor leagues too prematurely in order to display their skills for National Hockey League teams:
“If the (NHL) would be two or three years more patient, we would send over a better player.”
Most interesting nugget here:
“NHL scouts generally believe Czech, Slovak and Russian players have a more difficult time adjusting to the North American lifestyle and hockey style than, for example, Swedish players.”
Language may be a factor there, especially since many Scandinavian kids grow up communicating in English far better than — dare I say — Americans.
Ironically, USA Hockey recently has banished national championship events for its youngest competitors, and here’s a compelling suggestion for other sports to follow suit. I’m not sure if mandating equal playing time is the best way for elite athletes to develop — they still may need to move to more highly-charged environments — but taking the onus out of winning from the outset is a terrific idea.
The European youth hockey development model — which I blogged about here during the spring — may finally be influencing some badly needed changes on this side of the Atlantic, where competition-driven parents have long dictated the direction of youth sports. Even more ironically, it is that European system — which stresses technique and skill development over competition at the earliest ages — that may be torn apart in the process.