This article appeared in The Wall Street Journal on January 2, 2016.
Nearly halfway through the NHL season, the Chicago Blackhawks’ Patrick Kane is in a position to do something that no U.S.-born player has ever accomplished: lead the league in scoring.
During the NHL’s first 77 seasons , only two players born outside of Canada led the league in points—and one of them (Sweeney Schriner) had moved to Canada when he was only one month old in 1911. The other, Czech star Stan Mikita, accomplished the feat four times in five years during the mid-1960s. It wasn’t until the lockout-shortened season of 1994-95, when Czech star Jaromir Jagr, then only age 22, tied for the league lead in points, signaling a shift that the NHL was no longer Canada’s to dominate. Beginning in 1997-98, six different players born outside of Canada accounted for 10 of the next 14 scoring titles. Not once, however, has a U.S.-born player ever led the league in points.
According to Quanthockey.com, Americans have accounted for 47.2% of all non-Canadian-born NHL players, which is an enormous gap over the country with the next-highest representation, Sweden (12.7%). Yet of the 22 distinct non-Canadian skaters to have finished among the league’s top three in scoring, only three were born in the U.S.—Kevin Stevens in 1991-92, Pat LaFontaine the following season and Billy Burch back in 1923-24.
Thanks in large part to a 26-game point streak this season, Kane, a Buffalo native, is currently the NHL’s leading scorer and is on pace for 117 points over a full 82-game season. That would be the third-highest total ever for an American-born player and the most by a skater of any nationality since 2006-07.
(photo by Lisa Gansky)