Andrew Berkshire and Zach Hyman. Andrew Berkshire (L) and Zach Hyman (R, celebrating his 51st goal Sunday). Images from @AndrewBerkshire on Twitter/X and James Carey Lauder/USA Today Sports.

With elite athletes, there’s always discussion on how they got there.

Some come up through a route of being recognized as elite in widely accessible pathways, some become professional sports stars despite not previously playing that sport much or at all, and some come into top sports from pathways that aren’t as widely accessible.

The latter is the case with Edmonton Oilers’ right winger Zach Hyman.

The 31-year-old Hyman scored his 50th goal of this season on Sunday. That’s a remarkable accomplishment for anyone. But it’s perhaps especially notable for a fifth-round draft pick (in 2010) whose previous career-high in goals was 36 last year, and who had never topped 30 before in eight NHL seasons.

However, that led to some unusual criticism of Hyman from independent hockey podcaster Andrew Berkshire (previously of SB Nation Montreal Canadiens site Eyes on the Prize, currently a host for Game Over: Montreal and The Cross-Check NHL Show).

On Tuesday, Berkshire put out a video diminishing Hyman’s accomplishment because of his parents’ wealth and their moves to buy the junior teams he played for, many of the other teams in that (already controversial) league, and even a scouting service.

Here’s Berkshire’s first video on this:

That drew a remarkable roasting, including from former NHL player and current Barstool Sports Spittin’ Chiclets podcast host Ryan Whitney, and former NHL player (and controversial figure in his own right) Matthew Barnaby:

But many others went in on Berkshire, too:

The commentary even drew some allegations of Berkshire’s take being antisemitic:

For his part, Berkshire responded with a nine-minute video (but one that did not win over many critics):

Berkshire credits Terry McGurrin for helping him change his mind. Here are a couple of McGurrin’s tweets on the matter.

There are a few overall things worth discussing here. One is that Berkshire chose an extremely poor specific example for his attempt to make a point about the costs of developmental hockey and the people who wind up excluded as a result. He could have tried to make that point around the Florida Panthers’ NHL Draft selection of him in 2010, or after he got an athletic scholarship to Michigan in 2011, or even after the Toronto Maple Leafs acquired his rights in a 2015 trade, and it would have had a much greater impact in those cases.

And yes, while some of Hyman’s current success is about playing with stars Connor McDavid and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, that doesn’t make his contributions insignificant. His family wealth had nothing to do with him being chosen for that top-line role, and he’s certainly performing at a level far above replacement. It’s difficult to argue that his parents’ wealth had any notable impact on his career trajectory from Michigan to the NHL; it seems unlikely that that would be a factor at any level above where they owned teams.

Berkshire does have a point that hockey remains an expensive sport, especially when it comes to the travel teams often required to get players on the radar for NCAA or NHL teams. And he has a point that Hyman’s parents gave him advantages many did not have. A more equitable system might have produced a wider array of prospects competing for a Michigan scholarship, and perhaps Hyman would not have received it in that case. But it’s difficult to attribute anything from that point on to Hyman’s parents.

The entire conversation here may have already blown up beyond what it actually deserves. Berkshire had a reasonable point to make about barriers to high-level hockey access, something often discussed previously. But he chose a particularly poor example and came off as degrading significant accomplishments that a replacement player absolutely could not produce.

Berkshire took a lot of flak in response to that and some of that is fair. It is absurd to say that Hyman’s path from Michigan to the NHL saw a notable change because of who his parents were and how much money they had. But his role in lower-level hockey that got him on the radar for the NHL and the Wolverines absolutely did have a lot to do with parental wealth. (And it’s worth noting that parents’ plans to buy teams for their kids to star on have gone much worse when the kids don’t have the required level of talent.)

All in all, this take probably drew more attention than it deserved. There are many dumb things said about sports daily, and that’s particularly notable with the only-sometimes-acknowledged NHL. Berkshire does not work for any outlet that normally would draw major attention, so the backlash for him here really came from the heat of his take and from the prominent people who noticed it. But it is interesting to see this take and to see the backlash it spawned.

[Top image via Andrew Berkshire on Twitter/X/James Carey Lauder/USA Today Sports]

About Andrew Bucholtz

Andrew Bucholtz has been covering sports media for Awful Announcing since 2012. He is also a staff writer for The Comeback. His previous work includes time at Yahoo! Sports Canada and Black Press.