Ninety-four goalies have played in the National Hockey League (NHL) this season.
Two were born here, 50 kilometres apart on the mid-island.
Adin Hill, a 24-year-old goalie completing his fourth season with the Arizona Coyotes, was born in Comox. Laurent Brossoit, from Port Alberni, is finishing up his seventh season in the NHL with the Winnipeg Jets after playing three years with the Edmonton Oilers.
It’s hard to become an NHL goaltender. The competition is fierce. It takes hard work, commitment and probably a bit of luck.
Goalies are made, not born. But surprisingly, goalie’s birthplaces aren’t randomly distributed throughout the hockey-playing world. Historically, NHL netminders come from just a few regions within very few countries, with Quebec leading the pack.
But times have changed.
Canada, as a country, remains the leader in producing puck stoppers. Almost a third of the NHL goalies this season were born in the True North. The United States is second with 21 active NHL goaltenders. Finland is third with 13, but from one-seventh the population as Canada, making it the world’s most efficient national goalie factory. Russia is fourth with ten.
Has Vancouver Island replaced Quebec as the leading goaltender factory?
This year Ontario supplied ten NHL goalies, but it is home to almost 15 million people. Alberta and British Columbia come next with five, followed by four from Saskatchewan. In addition to Hill and Brossoit, British Columbia is the birthplace of the Montreal Canadian’s Carey Price (Anahim Lake), the Pittsburg Penguin’s Tristan Jarry (Surrey) and the San Jose Shark’s Martin Jones (North Vancouver).
Quebec, the birthplace of NHL legends Martin Brodeur, Roberto Luongo, and Patrick Roy, has lost its long-held status as a goalie hotbed. Only two active NHL netminders were born in Quebec- the Detroit Red Wing’s Jonathan Bernier and the Las Vegas Golden Knights’ Marc-Andre Fleury.
The new goalie hotbeds become clearer when you focus down regionally. The mid-Island is now the world’s second-leading goalie-producing region, but the area’s special status only jumps out when you break down the number of goaltenders by populations.
On a per-capita basis, Thunder Bay, Ontario is the only place in the world better than the mid-Island in producing goalies. Thunder Bay hatched two netminders from a population of around 110,000, while Comox and Port Alberni produced two buta are home to just under 120,000. Internationally, Vantaa, Finland is close behind with two NHL puck stoppers from a population of just under 220,000. Edmonton comes in third nationally – and fourth globally – with two goalies from a population of just under 1 million.
2021 stats leaders
The two Island-born netminders are making Islanders proud. Both Hill and Brossoit are playing well in 2021. They have Goals Against Averages (GAA) that rank in the top 25 of all NHL goaltenders this season. Hill has eight wins against eight losses even though his Coyotes have a losing record overall. Brossoit has six wins with four losses for the third-place Jets.
Brossoit’s Jets are on track to make the Stanley Cup playoffs, while Hill’s team will have to wait until next year.
It will be interesting to track as new goaltenders join the NHL, whether this is just a statistical oddity or if the Island has permanently replaced Quebec as one of the world’s leading NHL goalie factories.