Organizations in a sport system compete against one another while working together to sustain a competitive environment and to provide opportunities for competition at the provincial/state, national, or international level. This paper is a multicase study comparison of the elite sport development systems of Canada and Sweden to explore the differences and similarities between their approaches to the delivery of ice hockey. Semistructured interviews took place with participants from North America and Europe. Additional data came from media articles from Canada and Sweden. Findings revealed six themes/characteristics: the cost of hockey, residential boundaries, the player selection process, skill development, early specialization, and coaching. The results suggest that Canadian and Swedish hockey systems offer two different approaches to elite player development (closed vs. open systems), resulting in different trajectories regarding international success in the World Junior Championships and in the number of players drafted into the National Hockey League.
The authors are on the Faculty of Kinesiology, University of New Brunswick, Fredericton, New Brunswick, Canada.