September 21, 2009
North American Bias?
There has always been a general consensus that North American fans do not appreciate European players the same way they do Canadian and American players.
This summer we've seen lots of coverage on the retirement of Joe Sakic and Jeremy Roenick, and with good reason. In comparison, equal greats like Sergei Fedorov and Markus Naslund slipped away quietly.
A couple of years back Jaromir Jagr disappeared to Russia. He is arguably one of the 10 greatest offensive talents in the history of hockey. Did hockey fans truly appreciate him? Why was there no great send off for him? Why did we never warm to him quite like a few other players in NHL history. Would we have if he was from Kitchener instead of Kladno?
I'm not really sure how many European players have truly warmed the hearts of North American hockey fans, even when they were the best player on their team. Borje Salming in Toronto, yes. Alex Ovechkin in Washington yes. Fedorov in Detroit yes. Same with Lidstrom, although it took a long, long time for the rest of hockey to appreciate him. Saku Koivu in Montreal.
I'm sure there are a few more examples on the micro level, but Markus Naslund's story is by far the norm. He was a great Canuck captain for many years, but he was never adored like Trevor Linden, Stan Smyl or Roberto Luongo.
On the macro level Alex Ovechkin may be the only European player truly be adored throughout the whole NHL. Vladislav Tretiak may be the only other one to achieve such status, even though he never played in the NHL.
There is definitely a bias against European players. Why that is I am not completely sure. But it seems to me we as North American hockey fans are not truly appreciating some of the greatest players ever to play the game.