What Hockey League Pays the Most? Pro Salaries Compared

Posted on April 17, 2024 by Dan Kent
How Much Do Ice Hockey Leagues Pay

The best hockey leagues pay well, and they're not always the obvious ones. Here's a running list of some of the best-paying leagues in the world.

The National Hockey League (NHL) is undoubtedly the most well-known hockey league in the world, partially due to just how much players are compensated and the talent playing in the league.

However, the NHL is not the only league where players make a solid living. Below, we will look at the different hockey leagues along with the average salaries that can be expected, including whether there is a salary cap, to determine which leagues from around the world pay players the most.

What are the different hockey leagues?

While the NHL and AHL are two of the most commonly recognized hockey leagues, there are quite a few different leagues. Keep in mind, some of them are junior leagues, and players may not be compensated at all.

The ten biggest hockey leagues, in no particular order, include:

  • The National Hockey League (NHL)
  • The American Hockey League (AHL)
  • The NCAA
  • The Ontario Hockey League (OHL)
  • The Deutsche Eishockey Liga (DEL)
  • The National League A (NLA)
  • The Czech Extraliga
  • The Liiga
  • The Swedish Hockey League (SHL)
  • The Kontinental Hockey League (KHL)

This list is not exhaustive, and there are additional hockey leagues throughout North America, Europe, the Asia Pacific region and more. 

Which hockey league pays the highest salary?

It should come as no surprise to anyone that the National Hockey League pays the most out of all the hockey leagues. Those who play in the NHL can earn an average salary of $2.69 million USD and a league minimum salary of $775,000 USD.

Anyone who is a strong enough hockey player to get into the NHL will be earning significantly more than the average American, despite having a relatively short career.

The average salary per hockey league

While the average salary of $2.69 million USD in the National Hockey League is remarkably high, the average salaries of other hockey leagues are expectedly average by comparison. Following the NHL, the highest-paying leagues from around the world include the KHL teams (Russia), the NL (Swiss), the SHL (Sweden), and SM-Liiga (Finland). 

To show how rapidly the average salary falls, the highest of these leagues is the KHL, with an average salary of $425,000 USD. In contrast, the lowest in fourth is SM-Liiga, with an average salary of just $100,000. The NL in Switzerland and SHL in Sweden fall right in the middle, with average salaries of $228,000 and $110,000, respectively. 

How does the minimum NHL salary compare to others?

As mentioned, the NHL has a minimum salary of $775,000 USD, but how does this compare to other leagues? Given that the AHL, another large league, is a minor league, the minimum salary is far lower at just $51,000 USD. This is a respectable amount of money, but players will likely need to hold another job if they are supporting loved ones. 

Many of the other leagues worldwide do not have minimum salaries. However, the top players can expect to earn hundreds of thousands of dollars, if not more. 

Pay in a European league vs. American League vs. National league is not determined based on where the league is located but rather by how popular it is. This is why the National Hockey League comes with the highest average salary. 

This makes sense as the fans are the ones who supply the money to pay the players.

Do players from different countries receive different pay?

The salary level determined for NHL players, as an example of a league, is not determined based on where they are from. Instead, their salary is determined based on the skills they bring to the table and their ranks.

Rookies to the league with limited experience and coming straight from the minors will likely earn a salary closer to the minimum floor of $775,000. In contrast, Connor McDavid is earning over a hundred million dollars throughout his contract. There are also middle ground players such as Warren Foegele, who is earning just shy of $3 million USD per season.

The gentle balance of pay and skill 

Hockey players worldwide earn different sums of money depending on the league they are playing in. Remember that while many of the top players in leagues worldwide earn a substantial living, players trying to make a name for themselves might be barely scraping by.

However, depending on the league in question, even the top players may not be earning a large amount despite their tremendous skill level.

Dan Kent

About the author

Growing up in a hockey hotbed (Calgary, Alberta. And yes, I'm an Oiler fan), I decided to put my love and knowledge of the game to work. I started at five and am still playing today into my early 30s. By acquiring Brave Stick Hockey and rebranding it to Big Shot Hockey in 2023, I plan to teach people about this great game and educate them on the best equipment and history of the game. On a career level, I am in finance, running one of the largest financial websites in Canada, Stocktrades.ca.

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