January 19th, 2014, 12:27 PM #1
Sunday Long Read: Roots take hold in California (NHL.com)
Twenty-five years after the arrival of Wayne Gretzky in Los Angeles, NHL rosters are spotted with California born-and-trained players, including Etem, Jonathon Blum of the Minnesota Wild, Beau Bennett of the Pittsburgh Penguins, and Matt Nieto of the San Jose Sharks. More are in the pipeline; goalie Thatcher Demko of San Diego and wing Nicolas Kerdiles of Irvine were on the U.S. team at the 2014 International Ice Hockey Federation World Junior Championship. Demko is No. 1 on NHL Central Scouting's midterm ranking of North American goaltenders for the 2014 NHL Draft.
"I tell people this quite often," Gretzky said. "You can pick 10-year-olds and 12-year-olds [from California], put together a couple of teams, and they can go all through Canada and handle themselves extremely well. They can compete with the best of Canadian kids at 10 and 12.
"More importantly there's room for hockey here. It's something the kids want to do now. I think the proof of that is in how many kids [there are] now in junior hockey and college hockey, but in the National Hockey League. There's a lot more kids that are from this area. Chris Chelios isn't the only guy now from California."
There is symmetry to it all.
Read more: California hockey grows with Ducks, Kings, Wayne Gretzky - Sunday Long Read