Several areas formerly thought of as non-traditional hockey markets are now being represented in the National Hockey League more than ever before, and Texas is no exception. Eight players born in the Lone Star State have appeared in the league in the past four years after only three had done so prior. This list is sure to change as hockey becomes more popular in Texas, but below are the five best Texas-born NHLers as of 2019.
The first of two retired players on this list, Brian Leetch is considered one of the best defenseman to ever lace up a pair of skates. The native of Corpus Christi finished his 18-year career in 2006 with 247 goals and 1,028 points in 1,205 career games and was a first-ballot inductee into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 2009. His induction came one year after being given the same honor by the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame in 2008. Some of his other individual accolades include a Calder Trophy as rookie of the year in 1989, two Norris Trophies as the NHL’s top defenseman in 1992 and 1997, five years as an NHL All-Star and a Lester Patrick Trophy in 2007 for contributions to hockey in the United States.
Leetch moved away from Texas when he was an infant but would go on to be selected ninth-overall by the New York Rangers in 1986. He stayed with the Blueshirts for nearly 17 seasons, serving as an alternate captain for the Original Six franchise from 1992 to 2004 with a three-season stretch as captain from 1997 to 2000. But it was the 1993-94 campaign that Leetch is most remembered for. After tying his career-high in goals with 23 in the regular season, Leetch led all postseason scoring with 34 points en route to the Rangers’ first Stanley Cup victory in 54 years. For his efforts, he became the first American-born player to win the Conn Smythe Trophy as playoff MVP.
Seth Jones became the highest-drafted Texas-born player when he went fourth-overall to the Nashville Predators in 2013. The son of former Dallas Mavericks forward, Ronald ‘Popeye’ Jones, Seth was born just outside of Dallas in the city of Arlington. However, he moved around the country as a child in order to follow his father’s NBA career and didn’t return to Texas until the age of 11. Once back in Dallas, Jones developed his game playing for the Dallas Stars Tier I program until leaving to play for the U.S. National Under-17 Team.
Jones, now a member of the Columbus Blue Jackets, is a six-year veteran set to play in his 500th NHL game in 2019-20. To date, the defenseman has produced 54 goals and 228 points in 468 games.
One of the newest Vancouver Canucks, Tyler Myers was born in Houston and played youth hockey there until the age of 10 when he and his family relocated to Calgary, Alberta. The 12th overall pick in 2008 began his career and won a Calder Trophy with the Buffalo Sabres before being dealt to the Winnipeg Jets in 2015. Through 10 NHL seasons, the 6-foot-8, 229-pound defenseman has totaled 74 goals and 265 points in 635 games. He recently signed a five-year, $30 million with the Canucks as a free agent but still appreciates his childhood in Texas.
When I was a kid really starting to fall in love with hockey—in a city like Houston, hockey wasn’t a very popular sport the at the time—but I know it’s been growing and growing since I’ve been gone. It’s exciting for me to see that hockey is growing in [Texas]; more and more kids are getting into it. It’s exciting when the sport that you play is gathering that much attention and popularity in a place where you don’t see much of that.Tyler Myers in an interview with Sporting News in 2017
When he made his NHL debut in 1974 with the California Golden Seals, Mike Christie became the first-ever Texas-born player in the league. Christie learned to play hockey after he moved to Calgary at the age of five, but went on to attend the University of Calgary with the intention of playing football. It wasn’t until two former Denver University hockey players saw him on the ice with a local community team that his career took off. The duo called then-Denver head coach, Murray Armstrong, and convinced him to give Christie a scholarship on the spot.
Following his days at Denver, Christie played two years with the Dallas Blackhawks in the Central Professional Hockey League and then joined the Golden Seals, who moved to Cleveland to become the Barons in 1976. The gritty defenseman was traded to the Colorado Rockies during the 1977-78 season and was named team captain by Don Cherry in 1979. Christie’s NHL career came to an end in 1981 after a nine-game stint with the Vancouver Canucks; he finished having played 412 NHL games, posting 15 goals, 116 points and 550 penalty minutes. Sadly, Christie passed away on July 11, 2019, after a battle with kidney disease.
Of the names on this list, Blake Coleman is the only one that can be considered completely homegrown. With the exception of one season with Belle Tire in Detroit, Coleman played his entire youth career in Dallas from 1995 to 2009. He was drafted 75th overall by the New Jersey Devils in 2011 and joined the club in Jan. 2017.
Since then, the forward from Plano has carved out a place for himself with the Devils, suiting up for 180 games and scoring 36 goals and 63 points. He is currently one year into a three-year, $5.4 million deal, and, after a career-high 22 goals last season, expectations are high for the 27-year-old.