As the current issue of NHL.com's Impact! Magazine has highlighted, today's NHL is truly a world game.
The best players, hailing from the world's smallest towns and biggest cities, have come together to treat the game's fans to the greatest conglomeration of talent the sport has ever seen. Yet, some areas seem to have a greater hand in providing players than others. The reasons for this are many -- superior teaching, the availability of ice surfaces and the population's enthusiasm and embrace of the game among them.
In this edition of The Impact! Top 10, we look at some of the greatest hockey-producing towns in today's NHL. The list, compiled from birthplace information provided by NHL offices, is intended to show fans some of the places where the NHL pipeline flows most freely. It is presented in alphabetical order as each of the below locales, as well as many others, can lay claim to being a true hockey factory.
Banstra Bystrica, Slovakia -- This small city has produced five of the current Slovakians plying their trade in the NHL. For the most part, the players from Bystrica are as high-profile as they come, as well.
Center Michal Handzus is playing a huge role for Eastern Conference powerhouse Philadelphia. Nashville's Vladimir Orszagh is one of the primary offensive threats for the surprising Predators and Montreal's Richard Zednik has won over the demanding Montreal fans with his ability to produce clutch goals. Youngsters Tomas Surovy of Pittsburgh and Florida's Ivan Majesky also call the Bystrica area home.
Ceske Budejovice, Czech Republic -- Located in South Bohemia at the confluence of the Vltava and Malse rivers, Ceske Budejovice is home to five current NHLers, the same as the much bigger capital city of Prague. All told, the Czech Republic contributes more than 60 players to current NHL rosters. The Florida Panthers' duo of Vaclav Nedorost and Filip Novak are among the quintet of players from Ceske Budejovice, which is home of the original Budweiser beer. The other natives playing in the NHL today are Los Angeles defenseman Jaroslav Modry, Anaheim center Vaclav Prospal and Pittsburgh defenseman Josef Melichar.
Edmonton, Alberta, Canada -- Of the 65 Alberta-born players to start the season in the NHL, almost half are listed as being from the "City of Champions." This is hardly surprising, considering the passion Edmontonians profess for the sport.
Additionally, the glory years of the Edmonton Oilers during the Wayne Gretzky-Mark Messier era obviously encouraged many talented local youth to don skates and emulate those high-flying Oilers.
Among the stars to claim Edmonton as their birthplace are Messier and Jarome Iginla of the Calgary Flames. Additionally, four current Oilers -- Jason Chimera, Scott Ferguson, Brad Isbister and Fernando Pisani -- play for their hometown team.
Minneapolis, Minnesota, United States -- Nearly a quarter of Minnesota's 17 NHL players hail from Minneapolis. That becomes even more amazing when one considers that Minnesota is tied for first place with Massachusetts when it comes to producing NHL-caliber players.
The talent coming out of Minneapolis is, for the most part, very young. David Tanabe of Phoenix is considered among the best young defensemen in the game. New Jersey's Paul Martin and Tom Preissing of San Jose are high-profile rookie defensemen. They are joined by veteran Devils center Erik Rasmussen.