Why the NHL waits for no young talented Europeans

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.

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