By GORDON GLANTZ
GORDONVILLE — It’s almost hard to think back to 2006, considering it is the year before my life changed forever with the birth of Sofia.
It is equally hard to believe — or conceive — that an NHL team that wants to stay relevant would close off part of the hockey-playing universe “just because.”
Not saying that is the case with the Flyers, in regards to drafting players from Finland, but the evidence is mounting.
Finland is a country of about 6 million people (a lame reason often given why they can be more humane to each other on social issues, but I digress). Despite this, it is becoming known “the best hockey country in the world,” much to the chagrin of our friends up in the Great White North.
In last weekend’s NHL Draft, the Flyers continuing their steak of not drafting a player from Finland since 2006 (Joonas Lehtiuvori).
Given the talent coming out of that country, it is an almost impossible feat to accomplish, and yet they have managed to do it.
Since that time, the Finns have won three golds at the Under-20 World Tournament. In the Under-18 tournament, where most of the draft-eligible players have been displaying their games for scouts, they have two golds, two silvers and three bronzes in that time frame.
Yeah, you’ll find a Finnish veteran on their roster, via trade, from time to time, but it’s not the same thing as growing your own talent.
Just scan the rosters of the league’s elite teams, and you will find what they have that the Flyers (no Stanley Cups since 1975 and six losses in the finals since) do not.
You win with Finns.
The Flyers don’t win, and the bias is obvious.
I’m sure they don’t just dislike Finns off-hand, but there seems to be some general fear that their players maybe won’t adjust to playing in smaller rinks with more physical play, or that they won’t be willing to come here on two-way contracts, meaning apprenticeships in the less-glamorous minor leagues.
Lehtiivori might be an example of that. After being drafted, he remained in Europe before coming across the pong and playing 98 games with the Adirondack Phantoms over a span of a season and a half before returning to Europe, where he still plays for pay.
It’s hard to believe that one experience left such a sour taste in the mouths of management that they have passed it along though several regime changes since 2006.
The only common ground between these front offices is no Stanley Cups and not drafting any players from Finland.