NHL Teams Are More Diverse Than Ever

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Posted October 15, 2018

An American, a Russian, and a Swede walk into a bar… (Caps Outsider)

There is no doubt that hockey is a world game. With the NHL now boasting teams from 31 cities across North America and Canada, the U.S. and great white north still remain powerhouses of international hockey. However, hockey around the globe is as strong as it has ever been with programs in Europe producing some of the game’s modern superstars, which reach every point of the globe. As an Australian hockey player and Capitals fan, it is fascinating and quite exciting that the boys from Washington not only boast one of the strongest rosters in the league (a Stanley Cup winning one might I add) but the most culturally diverse in the National Hockey League.

Rosters across the NHL are no longer dominated by U.S. and Canadians, but with players of all cultures and backgrounds making their mark in the highest level league of the world’s fastest game. For the Washington Capitals, their dressing room is a melting pot of international language, culture and banter with players from nine countries rocking the red. Undoubtedly the face of the organization, the captain and one of the league’s top goal scorers, Alex Ovechkin, leads the international charge as the Russian superstar spearheading an international lineup for the ages. Alongside him are fellow Russians Dmitry Orlov and Evgeny Kuznetsov. Kuznetsov in an interview recently was labelled as one of the league’s top 5 players to which he promptly replied “I don’t give a s**t”. The Russians on the Capitals roster bring personality, flair and plenty of talent both on and off the ice with great senses of humour to boot.

The Canadian (Madison Bowey, Brett Connolly, Braden Holtby, Devante Smith-Pelly, Wom Wilson and Chandler Stephenson) and North American (John Carlson, Pheonix Copley, Nic Dowd, Matt Niskanen, Brooks Orpik and T.J. Oshie) contingents boast plenty of firepower, some incredible talent and stand up personalities with the majority now Stanley Cup Champions. For many of these players, communication on and off the ice comes down to feel, expression and shared humour. When Oshie takes to the ice with someone like Nick Backstrom, the language difference and communication between the two is never an issue. Backstrom and fellow Swede, defenceman Christian Djoos bring Swedish hockey knowledge to the Caps game along with Andre Burakovsky (technically born in Austria but a Swedish Citizen).

In addition to these superstars, the Caps locker room also plays host to two Czechs in Michael Kempney and Jakub Vrana and holds a bit of history (which is close to my heart) in Nathan Walker, the first Australian to play in the National Hockey League. Ironically, it is Walker who can speak freely with Vrana and Kempney with the Australian having spent much of his developmental years in the Czech Republic. The Caps also have Lars Eller, who is the first Danish-born player to win a Stanley Cup.

Come game day, the Washington rooms are abuzz with varying languages (some expletives and banter included) and the cultural melting pot that is the Capitals roster comes to life both on and off the ice.

As a hockey player and fan living on the other side of the world and with an Australian on the Capitals roster, the cultural diversity of the Washington Capitals is something to behold and the fluidity with which they communicate, play together and the camaraderie created is an incredible thing. The Caps prove that Hockey really has gone global and the players legitimately have the world at their feet.

 


About Chris McRae, Your Friendly Australian Capitals Writer

When the Washington Capitals drafted a young, dynamic Australian forward in the 2014 NHL Draft,
they immediately gained a legion of Australian fans. Many were just interested in tracking Walker’s
progress and I, like many have been thrilled to see his progression over the past four years.
My name is Chris McRae and I am a teacher, writer and hockey lover from Perth, the capital city of
the state of Western Australia. I am thrilled to now be joining the Capitals Outsider team. So how
does someone from what is considered the most isolated capital city in the world come to love a
game which is predominantly a northern hemisphere pastime? Much in a similar way to say
Nathan Walker or many of the other hockey lovers around my age, I was introduced to hockey
through the Mighty Ducks movies. They were fun, thrilling and made me ask the question…what is
this sport and how can I be like them?
Perth is a city with three ice rinks and when I reached the age of 22, I decided it was high time for
me to do something about this fascination I had for the sport of ice hockey. In a sporting culture
dominated by Australian Rules Football and Cricket, ice hockey is not given a lot of exposure in
mainstream media but is a growing hobby and passion for a large number of Australians (including
plenty of Canadian expats).
Six years after I started, I find myself heavily involved in the Perth hockey scene which, over the
years has included playing in both winter and summer leagues, working with the Perth Thunder
(Western Australia’s representative team in the Australian Ice Hockey League), organising charity
hockey events and combining my love of the sport with another hobby of mine…writing.
In late 2017, I began writing for local Perth magazine, the Swan Magazine and have been able to
write several hockey related articles, including one on our favourite son Nathan Walker, covering
his time in Hershey and Washington as well as a wrap of the Caps’ stunningly successful 2017/18
season. Like all Capitals fans, I was thrilled to see the boys claim the Stanley Cup earlier this year and can’t
wait to see what this season brings for the boys in red. I am looking forward to contributing to Caps
Outsider. LET’S GO CAPS!!

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