Ontario has gained and upheld its reputation as an NHL player factory for many years. Not only has it produced the most NHL stars, but it also often ranks as the province with the most active pros at any one time; here are a few reasons why.
The first factor may be obvious, but it is important nonetheless. The vast majority of Canadians live in a small handful of cities, with Ontario being the largest province in the country. Because of this, the talent pool is simply more extensive than anywhere else.
On top of this, many players from less populated areas tend to move to cities like Toronto and Ottawa to play, meaning Ontario has its own massive player pool and draws in thousands of potential pros from around the country.
Secondly, some of the most influential sportspeople in Canadian history — particularly in hockey — come from Ontario. Wayne Gretzky, Joe Thornton, Connor McDavid, Bobby Orr, Claude Giroux, and many other incredibly successful players come from the province.
This has created an aura surrounding the province and its population. These legends are the “hometown heroes” of so many young players, which has led to generation after generation wanting to follow in their footsteps.
Winter Sports Availability/Climate
Considering the Canadian climate, there are few sports aspiring young athletes can participate in. While there are football and soccer pitches, basketball courts, etc., the one constant accessible to almost everyone is ice rinks.
Like how there is a soccer field, or at least goalposts, around almost every corner across Europe and South America, ice-based sports are common across Canada. Nine times out of ten, a young athlete will choose what is more accessible over anything else.
Because of this accessibility, most people fall into playing ice hockey, whether it be to turn it into a professional career or to play casually with friends and family.
Building on the previous point, Ontario and other Canadian provinces have put a lot of money into building and maintaining ice hockey infrastructure. There are professional-grade rinks everywhere you look, and most high schools and universities have rinks.
This means starting at a very young age, players begin practicing and playing in the best facilities available. This leads to players beginning playing at a high level from a younger age and continuing to improve through high school, university, and then into minor league systems.
When you combine the impressive infrastructure with a massive player pool, you also draw in the best coaching. Ontario also has many elite coaches who take on teams from high school level to minor league teams.
A player can only reach their full potential through the right coaching, and because Ontario has so many of the best coaches the game has to offer, this works in their favor.
Minor League System
The Ontario Hockey League is one of Canada’s most extensive minor league systems and is also widely regarded as one of the best in the world. With most players aged between 15 and 20, the system is the ideal place for young players to catch the eyes of scouts.
On top of that, Ontario itself has several minor hockey leagues within its borders, seven in total, including the Greater Toronto Hockey League and the women’s league. This is part of a reason stated previously: at almost every level, young players come up against the best their province has to offer, drastically improving their skills and talent over a short period.
Finally, while this reason isn’t specific to Ontario, we have to speak about ice hockey culture in Canada. It is the national sport, the one that fills arenas day in and day out, gets the most media attention, and is played the most.
Ice hockey runs through the veins of every Canadian and, as mentioned before, is played by most of the population on one or another level. Because of this, it is hard to avoid playing it at some point, or at the very least, watching it.
This culture can be compared to cricket in India and soccer in Brazil — it is almost like no other sport exists, and many Canadians see no point in caring about any sport besides ice hockey.
As you can see, while other cities and countries are producing top ice hockey stars, there is nowhere else on the planet that does it better or as consistently as Ontario. Unless another part of the world steps its game up to a level we have never seen before, Ontario will keep its crown as the ice hockey capital of the world.