Chambers Compares US/Canadian Youth Hockey

(left) The Denver Post's Mike Chambers maintains that youth players in Canada have several advantages over their U.S. counterparts

From: Denver Post
by Mike Chambers

The epicenter of amateur hockey right now is Saskatchewan, Canada, where the IIHF World Junior Championship is unfolding in Saskatoon and Regina.

Great hockey towns, eh?

A question mark doesn't really belong after that sentence, but after making a pre-Christmas trip to Regina and its small suburbs of Weyburn, Odessa, Arcola and Estevan with my son's Littleton Hawks squirt team, I've expanded my vocabulary while gaining a great appreciation for Canadians' passion for the World Juniors and youth hockey in general.

Among the endless toddler-to-teen story lines in Saskatoon and Regina is the Colorado connection of U.S. teammates Ryan Bourque, Matt Donovan and Jason Zucker (read rest of article).


dggoddard said...

The USA plays Latvia today at 2 PM MT. The game will be televised on the NHL Network in the US and on the internet at

The Under-17 World Junior Challenge kicks off today in Ontario. Team USA faces Canada Atlantic.

achsdu17 said...

According to a friend of mine who's reffed and played in both Canada and the US has told me the biggest problem comes at the early age.

In Canada hockey is a lifestyle and is taken very seriously through training, development and strategy. Kids are always being cut from a team to bring in the right players. The US on the other hand treats it like any other recreational sport. Most coaches will not cut kids, they listen to the parents trying to make the game "fun" for everyone, and yes the training is not as intense.

I do believe him on his description of the US. I see it a lot at work all the time. I know there are some programs in the US that will be a lot more strict in development, there are just not enough of them.

puck swami said...

I've spent a lot of time around the game in both countries. Youth program intensity varies greatly in both countries.

In Canada and the USA, there are plenty of low pressure initiation, house league and recreational programs that are designed to be fun, and encourage participation. Most players should be in this category.

Both countries also have competitive, travel and elite programs are designed for players who want to play the game seriously, and have more pressure, player cuts, and more intense travel games added to their schedules.

You can find any number of programs out there to match your kids' skill level, drive and intensity - it all depends on what you want to spend, physically, emotionally and financially in the sport.

The difference in Canada is that hockey is the dominant culture in the country, and people treat it that way - it's everywhere you look. In the USA, in most places, you need to go looking for hockey,

Anonymous said...

One of the things to also realize is that there aren't nearly as many "natural" places for a kid to just go out and skate in CO as there are in other parts of the country.

Most places up in the Midwest with all the lakes wind up clearing space for rinks, etc. Most places will also flood parks and make rinks for the winter. So even though ice time is still at a premium, there's a lot more of it available in some parts of the country than others.

Anonymous said...

Having played and coached in both the US & Canada the difference is night and day.

In Canada virtually every small town has a rink and it is the lifeblood of the community during the long winter months. Kids can skate & practice much more than they can here and are able to develop and have much more fun with the game. The best players from the area towns are placed on a rep team which is the equivalent of a AAA team in the states only stronger.

Contrast that with the US where the game has become elitist and a rich man's sport or one where middle class families often have to mortgage their homes in order to pay for ice time and travel expenses.

USA Hockey is a glorified insurance agency that does little to promote the game across socioeconomic lines. It is the worst at dangling the "scholarship carrot" in front of naive parents. Just look at a copy of their magazine and all of the ads for camps/schools that will take your kid to "the next level".

The rec game is quickly dying/disappearing in many areas because the pressure is on for little Johnny to "develop" and get that college scholarship. This is true even in places that are traditional hockey hotbeds. Just look at the problems that they are having with youth hockey out East in the US.

The parents of many kids have become simply unbearable and good coaches are abandoning the game because of it. I coached with 2 ex-NHL players (13 NHL years & 1 Stanley Cup & 7 NHL years) and the amount of crap that we dealt with from parents would make your head spin. My favorite line was when one of the former players said after a confrontation with a parent about playing time "I have learned more about the game of hockey from these parents then I did in all my years playing." Pretty much sums things up in a nutshell.