Saturday, October 17, 2009

Fight! Fight! Fight!

It's Saturday afternoon and all across America tens of thousands of fans are packing into their local college stadiums for an event, more than just a football game. There will be tailgating, barbecuing, underage drinking...and marching bands warming up. Soon enough, they'll be belting out the university's fight song. Their own special tune, shared equally by their players, their students and their fans.

One of the unique aspects of the NHL when compared to other major sports in North America is the origin of the players. Today's hockey professionals come from largely three groups - Europe, Canadian Junior leagues and American colleges.

According the the NHL, in 2004 22% of the players in the league that year were from a US college hockey program. Fast forward five years to the end of last season and the number had sky rocketed to 29%. In fact, of all the players that debuted just last season 65 were former college hockey players.

The LA Kings are slightly ahead of that pace this season, with 7 of the 20 guys they've suited up most nights (35%) having donned a college jersey prior to turning pro. Where the stats just turn crazy for the Kings though is on defense. Four of the Kings starting blueliners are college bred. Only Doughty and O'Donnell (both from the OHL) break rank.

Technically, the Kings have another college defenseman on their roster, Peter Harrold. However, the team has been using him on the fourth line this year.

It's not just the Kings riding the trend. Some of the top young players in the game right now did the college thing. Players like Chicago Blackhawk Jonathan Toews - he went to North Dakota. Currently near the top of the leader board for goals scored you have Dany Heatley (Wisconsin) and Patrick Sharp (North Dakota). Interestingly side note though, Jordan Schroeder was the only college player taken in the first round of the draft this past June.

The Kings college frat house:

Teddy Purcell - played just one year at the University of Maine (2006-07), scoring 42 points in 40 games...good enough to earn him Hockey East Rookie of the Year honors in his sole season as a Black Bear...his team also reached the NCAA frozen four

Jonathan Quick - minded net at the University of Massachusetts for two seasons...posted 19 wins (in 37 games played), with a 2.16 GAA and .929 save percentage in 2006-07 - all single season team records…was named Hockey East Defensive Player of the Week twice and Hockey East Goaltender of the Month for November 2005

Jack Johnson - now he was going to make it to the NHL no matter what, obviously he's a flat stud...yet, his choice of school certainly didn't hurt him...for as long as anybody can remember, Michigan has been sending more players to the NHL than any other university...North Dakota, Wisconsin and Boston College are all currently battling it out for second place bragging rights...interesting trivia note: his dad also played for the Wolverines...JMFJ left after just two seasons to pursue his dream of the NHL, but they were a memorable two his first season (2005-06) he led Michigan freshmen and defensemen in goals (10), assists (22) and points (32)...during his sophomore season he led the team's d-men with 16 goals and 23 assists; and was named Best Offensive Defenseman in the conference...he was also an all American in 2007

Davis Drewiske - played four years at the University of Wisconsin ... served as the captain during his senior year, when he was second in team scoring by defenseman with 21 points (5 goals, 16 assists)...was named the team's MVP that year...his team also won the NCAA championship in 2006 (beating Peter Harold and his Boston College teammates)

Peter Harold - played four years for the Boston College Eagles (one of the most beautiful college campuses you'll ever see, more on that some other day)...earned BC's outstanding freshman a junior was third in all of Hockey East with a plus 20 rating...though small in size, he was one of the smartest d-man to ever play at BC - and that says a lot considering their rich history...served as team captain his senior year of 2005-06 and was named first team all American on defense

Matt Greene - the University of North Dakota is notorious for having a large team...Greene was big on a team of giants...he was a standout from the start for the Fighting Sioux, posting a plus 11 rating (second among all rookies)...followed that up his second year by leading all d-men with 16 assists...served as team captain...lost the NCAA championship to Denver during his final season, 2004-05

Rob Scuderi - a four year Eagle at Boston College...played in all 42 games as a freshman and earned Hockey East all-rookie team honors (1997-98)...played in all 42 games the following two seasons as well...a true iron man, he played more games in a BC sweater than any other player in team history...went to the NCAA hockey championship game three of his four years (!), finally winning it all in 2001, his final season

That's not just a lot of players hanging out on college campuses going to frat parties, that's a ton of leadership experience and even more maturity coming from winning big, big games.

Now if the Kings could just come up with a good fight song for all the players and fans to rally around, they might really be in business.

Any good ideas out there?


note: if you want to follow the stats of college players now in the NHL, sorted by school - which is pretty cool...head over to

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