In Defense of An Open League

There is much controversy surrounding the Polish hockey league right now. There are huge disagreements about if the PHL should be an open league allowing more foreign players. Some of the voices that have spoken on the issue include Polish hockey legends, Mariusz Czerkawski, and Leszek Laszkiewicz, along with current Poland national team and Podhale coach Tomek Valtonen. The three of them agreed that the PHL has too many foreign players and increasing the amount would be devastating to the league and Polish hockey. The belief seems to be directly tied into the idea that if foreigners are taking roster spots then there will be no spots, for young players.

I disagree with this idea. The young players should not be the ones in danger of their spots. It should be the players over 22 that wouldn’t be involved in professional hockey outside of Poland. The best players in Poland and young players should be going against the best talent possible. Playing against better talent is how they get smarter and improve their skills. What value do players like Dominik Pas, Kamil Walega, and Jan Soltys get when half the league is not even competitive? What value is there to Patryk Wronka in this league? He could be playing outside of Poland. Wronka has the skills to do it. The PHL is currently an awful place with not even a lot of foreign players. I can’t imagine how low the quality of play would drop with even less of them.

Here are IIHF Men’s teams ranked from 10th to 25th, where a majority of their national team plays, and the percent of foreign talent they go up against. (Teams with no majority not shown, Hungary shown twice as the high number of national team members that appear in both leagues.)

 

Country

IIHF Ranking League That A Majority of National Team Players Play In Percent of Foreign Players They’re Going Against
Latvia 11 Kontinental Hockey League 96.8%
Kazakhstan 18 Kontinental Hockey League 96.5%
Belarus 14 Kontinental Hockey League 95.9%
Hungary 20 Erste Bank Eishockey Liga 95.6%
Hungary 20 Tipsport Liga 91.4%
Great Britain 22 Elite Ice Hockey League 66.0%
Austria 17 Erste Bank Eishockey Liga 60.7%
Japan 23 Asia League Ice Hockey 57.2%
South Korea 16 Asia League Ice Hockey 57.2%
France 13 Synerglace Ligue Magnus 42.6%
Slovakia 10 Tipsport Liga 34.5%
Poland 21 Polska Hokej Liga 31.8%
Ukraine 24 Ukrainian Hockey League 25.0%

Poland ranks second to last just above Ukraine, a hockey country that continues to decline. There are two separate ideals of thought among the rest of the teams in the list. Have strong teams made up of your best players in stronger leagues, or let foreign players elevate your league.  These counties continue to cater to the top players in their country, and that is how it should be. If you’re not good enough to keep up with foreign players in the United Kingdom or France, then you get sent to the NIHL (UK) or FFHG, Division 1 (France). A similar thing happens in the situation, where a country has a top team in another league. Their domestic league takes a step back and can be full of the players not good enough for the team in a higher league. It is sad to say, but if a player isn’t one of your top 30 players, what does it matter where they play? In Poland, most of the league could easily play in Poland’s 2nd league. It would actually elevate the second league as well. You’re not going to develop the sport to the heights of Finland or Finland to where you can not rely on foreign players to elevate your league. Poland either has to get their teams into stronger leagues or let teams have as many imports as they need to make a competitive team.

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