When you start skating at the age of five or six, you can safely say that hockey is in your blood. American hockey players from places like Minnesota, North Dakota, Maine, Michigan and Massachusetts have an idea of what this is like. But when you start skating shortly after you learn to walk, you can safely say that the sport is in your DNA. In Canada, hockey is a way of life, which is one of the reasons why the USA will never match our friends to the north on the ice. (Discover the keys to hockey training.) Here are five more reasons:
The 2010 World Junior Championships media guide indicated that 1.5 percent of Canada's population are registered hockey players. This compares to the USA's measly 0.15 percent. That's a huge difference in the size of the talent pool, and it increases Canada's chances of producing elite players.
Now, this is just my opinion, since Canada has many great athletes playing other sports. But just imagine how dominant the U.S would be if athletes like LeBron James and Adrian Peterson grew up wanting to play hockey. That would definitely push USA Hockey's pedigree up a notch. But realistically, hockey for Americans is fourth on the totem pole behind football, basketball and baseball.
Canada is expected to win at hockey, no matter whom they play. At the World Junior Championships in Buffalo in 2010, Canadians were lined up for miles to cross the border to watch their country play. During the Vancouver Olympics in 2010, an estimated 80 percent of the Canadian population watched the Gold medal game between Canada and the U.S. In America, the two biggest games in USA hockey history—the 2010 Gold medal game against Canada and the 1980 semi-final game against the Soviet Union—were not even aired live on a major TV network. In 2010, NBC showed ice dancing over hockey.
If you're Canadian, you always have a place to play hockey. Not only does Canada have the most indoor rinks in the world, they also have the most outdoor rinks in the world—11,000, compared to under 200 in the U.S. There is always a hockey game within walking or driving distance, and mini-sticks have become every hotel staff's worst nightmare, with games going on in their hallways on every winter weekend.
No matter how old you are in Canada, you remember a Canadian hockey team winning a gold medal. Whether it's the Olympics, World Juniors or the Canada Cup, Team Canada has consistently pumped out winners. When you grow up as a Canadian hockey player, you want nothing more than to carry on your country's winning tradition.
USA Hockey has seen some success in international tournaments, but the consistency just hasn't been there. Sadly, American teams have played great in flashes, but they have not gathered momentum to win with regularity. The phrase "Miracle on Ice" was coined in 1980 for a reason; it wasn't supposed to happen.
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