Contrary to what the detractors say against the NHL expanding/moving to “non-traditional markets,” pucks have not been dropping in empty arenas these last two decades. People have been there to watch and hear the sport in action and potentially be inspired by it.
Granted, the caliber of hockey talent coming out of Arizona, California, Florida, North Carolina and Texas is in no way as far along as it is in Canada, Michigan, Minnesota, New England or elsewhere above the Mason-Dixon Line. The latter locations have spawned a wealth of established NHL talent while the former are generally still confined to producing participants in the amateur ranks.
With that said, the mere existence of the NHL’s influence in all of its current cities is a testament to the worth of making the league as continental as the NBA, NFL and MLB. The presence of established and rising players who directly cite NHL cities as their hometown offers substantive evidence on its own.
Upon flipping through such sources as Quant Hockey and the Internet Hockey Database, there are 21 NHL cities that have produced an active player who has seen NHL action. Of the nine others, eight have had a franchise for no more than 22 years while another―Newark, N.J.―shares a metropolitan area with two other teams and took the Devils from East Rutherford in 2007.
Translation: The more recently introduced markets can catch up with the longer-tenured cities if given enough time. Until then, here is a look at the quintessential contemporary representatives of every NHL franchise’s influence on its hometown’s citizens.