Is Illinois Among Leading States At Producing NHL Players?

Is Illinois Among Leading States At Producing NHL Players?
Fact Checked by Pat McLoone

Illinois is the stronghold of the Chicago Blackhawks, and although the Blackhawks Playoff Odds aren't the brightest for this season, they has enough frozen winter ponds to sustain a phalanx of pee wee hockey leagues, and a significant population. No wonder so many NHL players were born there.

In addition to being the home of Illinois sports betting, the Land of Lincoln has also been the birthplace of many fine NHL players. Where does Illinois rank among states that have produced the most pro hockey standouts? Let’s find out:

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Most NHL Players By State

Rank, State No. of Players % of U.S. NHL Players
1. Minnesota 300 21.7%
2. Massachusetts 217 15.7%
3. Michigan 190 13.8%
4. New York 138 10.0%
5. Illinois 78 5.6%
6. California 51 3.7%
7. Wisconsin 40 2.9%
8. Pennsylvania 38 2.8%
9. Ohio 34 2.5%
10. Connecticut 33 2.4%

Illinois Fifth On List

The Land of Lincoln, which gives us Illinois sportsbook promos from many operators, has had an association with the great ice game going back more than 100 years. The first Illinois native to play in the NHL was Harry Mummery, way back in 1918, with the Toronto Arenas (the modern-day Maple Leafs).

In all, 78 NHL players were born in Illinois, or 5.6% of American-born players in league history. That’s good for fifth on our list, behind Minnesota, Massachusetts, Michigan and New York. Illinois finished ahead of California, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, Ohio and Connecticut.

The Blackhawks have been around since the 1926-27 season (from then until 1986 they were the Black Hawks, two words) and have won six Stanley Cups, including three titles since 2010. This season, the Blackhawks Stanley Cup odds are between +12500 and +20000 at various Illinois betting sites.

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Chelios Is Best State Has Produced

You could start a pretty good argument about who’s the best player from certain states, and don’t get us started on Canadian provinces. But in Illinois, one name clearly stands above the rest among native-born players.

Chris Chelios was born in Chicago in 1962 and played in college at Wisconsin before being drafted by the Canadiens in 1981. The defenseman played seven seasons In Montreal, and won a Stanley Cup there in 1986, before he was traded to the hometown Blackhawks in 1990. He played eight-plus seasons in Chicago before a midseason trade in 1999 sent him to the rival Red Wings. Chelios won two more Stanley Cups with Detroit in nine-plus seasons before wrapping up his playing career with seven games as a member of the Atlanta Thrashers in the 2009-10 season, at age 48.

His remarkable 26-year playing career included seven All-Star Game appearances, three Norris Trophy wins as the NHL’s best defenseman and induction in the Hall of Fame (the lone Illinois native in the Hall). Chelios is ninth all-time in games played with 1,651 and has more career points than any other Illinois native with 948, quite impressive considering that he was a defenseman.

Hockey is a family business for the Chelios bunch – Chris’ son Jake Chelios and his cousin Nikos Tselios both had brief NHL playing careers (Jake now plays in the Kontinental Hockey League) and daughter Caley has been a broadcaster with the Blackhawks and the Tampa Bay Lightning.

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Other Notable Illinois Natives

The career leader in goals among NHL players born in Illinois is Eddie Olczyk, who found the net 342 times in 16 seasons, including five years with the Blackhawks. The Chicago native has since gone on to a long career as a hockey broadcaster. Current NHL players born in the state include Christian Dvorak of the Canadiens, J.T. Compher of the Red Wings and Josh Manson, who helped the Colorado Avalanche win the 2022 Stanley Cup.

One of the longest NHL careers for an Illinois native belongs to Craig Anderson, a goaltender who just retired this past offseason after 20 years at hockey’s highest level. He has 709 games played, by far the most of any goalie born in the Land of Lincoln, and his 319 career wins ties the Park Ridge native for No. 31 on the all-time list.

Going into the 2023-24 season, Caesars Illinois Sportsbook lists the Carolina Hurricanes as the Stanley Cup favorite with +750 odds, followed by Colorado at +800.



Jim Tomlin is a writer and editor for He has been a journalist for 30 years, with experience at publications such as the Tampa Bay Times, Saturday Tradition, Saturday Down South and FanRag.

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