World Cup scores on diversity, says NHL

Mon Sep 19, 2016 6:38pm EDT
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By Steve Keating

TORONTO (Reuters) - Despite staging a World Cup that features only six nations and two gimmicky teams, the National Hockey League insisted on Monday it is the most international of the Big Four North American professional sports.

With 25 percent of players in the NHL now coming from outside North America, commissioner Gary Bettman boasted that the league continues to lead the way when it comes to inclusion.

Yet Canada, United States, Russia, Sweden, Finland and Czech Republic are the only nations represented in the World Cup of Hockey being played in Toronto while the two other teams are hybrids, a concept developed to avoid unappealing routs.

Team Europe has been cobbled together with players from eight smaller hockey playing nations while Team North America features the best under-24 players from Canada and the United States.

"Historically, and we are about to celebrate our 100th anniversary, we have been and still are the most international of the North American sports leagues," said Bettman, speaking at the Hockey Sense Summit looking at social equality.

"Twenty-five percent of our players come from outside North America. When you look at the way our teams play, the way our sport emphasizes the best in sport, hard work, team work, diligence, professionalism - we are a true melting pot."

While NHL statistics do show that 25 percent of NHL rosters last season were made up of international players, the National Basketball Association (NBA) can argue that it is far more inclusive and diversified.

NHL teams were stocked with foreign talent from 17 countries while the NBA's opening night rosters included names from 37 nations and territories, although the 100 foreign players represented a smaller percentage overall at 22.4.   Continued...

Sep 17, 2016; Toronto, Ontario, Canada; Team Canada forward Jonathan Toews (16) battles for a puck with Team Czech Republic player Tomas Plekanec (14) during the first period in the preliminary round play in the 2016 World Cup of Hockey at Air Canada Centre. Mandatory Credit: Nick Turchiaro-USA TODAY Sports