High 10 Greatest Ice Hockey Leagues

Have you ever ever puzzled if there are hockey leagues that rival the NHL by way of expertise, viewership, and fan-base? Effectively, in case you have, then this section ought to be only for you.

It’s broadly identified that gamers from world wide flock to the NHL for an opportunity to win Lord Stanley’s Cup and play on presumably the largest hockey phases round North America. Nonetheless, hockey just isn’t a phenomenon that’s unique solely to North America as many European leagues such because the SHL, KHL, and Liiga exhibiting that they’re fairly adept at growing gifted hockey gamers that may succeed at any degree.

Right here’s a breakdown of the highest 10 greatest hockey leagues world wide:

10.) Ontario Hockey League (OHL)

The Ontario Hockey League has a fame, very like the QMJHL and WHL, for producing some wonderful expertise that has a major affect on the NHL degree. Gamers similar to Bobby Orr, Wayne Gretzky, Eric Lindros, and John Tavares have all performed within the OHL and made their mark within the NHL.

Robert Thomas Bulldogs Ontario Hockey League
Robert Thomas of the Hamilton Bulldogs gained the Wayne Gretzky 99 Award because the MVP of the OHL playoffs. (Aaron Bell/OHL Photos)

Whereas the OHL has a 68 sport schedule for 20 groups, the league does a reasonably good job of scheduling video games that run largely from Thursday by way of the weekend. Because the majority of gamers collaborating within the OHL are aged 15-20, there can undoubtedly be some scheduling conflicts with one’s college schedule. Nonetheless, don’t be fooled by the truth that a few of these children nonetheless should attend college and make room to always enhance their hockey sport.

The OHL constantly produces gamers which are all-around expert gamers. Whereas leagues such because the QMJHL have been identified for producing offensive superstars, the OHL appears to ship gamers which are extraordinarily well-rounded. Regardless that the three main junior hockey leagues differ by way of their respective kinds, every has constantly produced a plethora of expertise for NHL groups round North America.

9.) NCAA

Over the course of the final decade, NCAA hockey has grow to be a high improvement path for gamers to take to the NHL. As mentioned by collegehockeyinc in promotional materials from 2017:

A document 314 former faculty gamers skated within the NHL in 2016-17, comprising 32% of the league. That quantity was simply 20% on the flip of the century.

This unprecedented development represents a change in how each gamers and groups are using the NCAA as a pathway to reaching the NHL. For groups, they will draft a promising however considerably unsure participant who’s heading to the NCAA to obtain as much as 4 years of development primarily free. For gamers, they will earn a level and develop their sport earlier than reaching the AHL or NHL with a bodily and maturity edge over their counterparts. Whenever you take a look at it this manner, it’s no shock that so many gamers from all around the world are using the NCAA as their path to skilled hockey.

Boston College Eagles 2012 Frozen Four
The Boston School Eagles rejoice after defeating the Ferris State Bulldogs within the finals of the 2012 Frozen 4 (Douglas Jones-US PRESSWIRE)

There are too many former NCAA gamers presently within the NHL to start out naming all of them, however listed here are a couple of simply to offer an concept of how impactful the league has been over the previous couple of years. This consists of the likes of Jonathan Toews, Jack Eichel, Nick Bjugstad, Johnny Gaudreau and Duncan Keith. With an already spectacular and rising checklist of alumni, the way forward for hockey within the NCAA is shiny, with each gamers and the NHL loving the outcomes.

8.) American Hockey League (AHL)

ahl logo
The American Hockey League is commonly considered because the final cease for a prospect earlier than an NHL call-up.

The American Hockey League (AHL) makes the checklist as a result of it’s often the final cease for a growing prospect earlier than they arrive within the NHL. Oftentimes, NHL groups will determine if a prospect is prepared for the large leagues after they’ve accomplished a specific amount of worldwide play or competitors inside a North American league. This enables many AHL groups to play host to a few of the most gifted younger gamers on the earth who’re simply on the cusp of breaking into the NHL.

If not for an age restriction that stops prospects who’re below the age of 20 from taking part in within the league, the AHL may have seen much more high quality gamers move by way of their arenas. With this rule in place, the AHL will at all times be a bit hamstrung by way of lacking out on the most effective draft picks who simply aren’t able to tackle NHL ice time as an 18 or 19-year-old, however may use just a little extra competitors than what they have been receiving in juniors.

It’s not simply gamers who work their approach by way of the AHL, both. Many NHL coaches make a cease alongside the best way within the AHL to hone their craft, together with the likes of Jon Cooper of the Tampa Bay Lightning and Mike Yeo of the St. Louis Blues.

As of 2021-22, each NHL workforce has maintained an affiliation with an AHL workforce. Because the NHL continues to develop, the AHL will develop together with them, offering high quality mentoring and development for up and coming NHL expertise.

7.) Deutsche Eishockey Liga (DEL)

The DEL was based in 1994-95 and was comprised of groups from the Ice Hockey Bundesliga’s first and second division. To start with, the league skilled controversies as many groups have been extremely in debt and a few golf equipment have been pressured to fold. Moreover, rulings by the European Court docket of Justice enabled gamers to maneuver fairly regularly between groups and attendance numbers took a fall coming into the brand new millennium.

Christian Ehrhoff
Former NHL defenseman Christian Ehrhoff completed his lengthy skilled profession in his native Germany, taking part in for Kolner Haie within the Deutsche Eishockey Liga. (Picture: Andy Martin Jr)

Nonetheless, the league rebounded because it skilled an inflow of NHL gamers in the course of the 2004-2005 NHL lockout. The league additionally re-instituted using the relegation system as extra emphasis could be positioned on play within the second division of the Ice Hockey’s Bundesliga. Because the 2001-2002 season, championship play has largely been managed by Eisbaren Berlin as they gained 5 championships in 10 years. Lately, the EHC Purple Bull Munchen have discovered their strategy to the highest of the league, successful three straight championships.

Whereas the DEL remains to be growing its footprint within the hockey panorama, it’s laborious to not like German hockey. As we noticed of their sudden run to the Silver Medal within the 2018 Olympics, Germany is rising a powerful and passionate fanbase able to competing with the most effective on the earth.

6.) Nationwide League A (NLA)

best hockey leagues

Primarily based in Switzerland, the Nationwide League A (NLA) is the highest tier of the two-tier Swiss hockey league, with the opposite being the Nationwide League B. The NLA had the most effective attendance figures for European hockey golf equipment in 2016-17, due in no small half to hockey membership SC Bern and its spacious (17,131 capability) dwelling, PostFinance-Enviornment, that averaged 16,399 spectators every sport.

The NLA consists of 12 groups that play a complete of fifty video games in a season, with the highest eight groups qualifying for the playoffs. The underside 4 groups within the standings get thrust right into a comfort bracket of kinds and the highest workforce from the Nationwide League B is given an opportunity to vie for NLA inclusion.

Since 2000, the NLA has largely been dominated by three golf equipment, HC Davos, ZSC Lions and SC Bern, who’ve all gained at the very least 5 championships within the new millennia.

With a extremely aggressive league and nice attendance charges, the NLA means that very like us in North America, these Swiss love their hockey.

The Czech Extraliga is likely one of the best professional ice hockey leagues in Europe and is presently ranked by the IIHF because the third strongest ice hockey league in Europe. The league was additionally based in 1993 after the dissolution of Czechoslovakia and the Czech’s have a lot to indicate for by way of expertise contributed to the NHL.

Czech Hockey

Gamers from the Czech Republic make their strategy to the NHL yearly and plenty of of these gamers have had a shot at taking part in within the Czech Extraliga. There are presently 50-plus Czech’s within the Nationwide Hockey League and with gamers similar to Thomas Hertl, Vladimir Sobotka and Pavel Zacha contributing to NHL rosters, it’s apparent that the Czech Republic and the Czech Extraliga has a knack for growing gifted all-around hockey gamers.

The Czech Extraliga has 4 extra groups than the Slovak Extraliga, however the league’s formatting additionally provides fascinating parts to its viewers. Solely the highest 6 groups make the playoffs, however the groups that end Seventh – Tenth compete in opposition to one another for an opportunity to advance to the quarterfinals in opposition to one of many high 6 groups. As for groups that end eleventh – 14th, these groups are pressured to compete in opposition to one another, with the loser of the group going through the highest workforce from the Czech Republic’s First League. Because the Czech Extraliga makes use of a relegation/promotion system, the underside workforce within the Extraliga shall be topic to relegation to the First League if they’re unable to beat the top-seeded workforce from the latter league.

It’s no shock that the Czechs have been delivering excellent play on a nationwide degree and it shouldn’t be a shock to followers that behind American and Canadian gamers, Czechs are the third most populated group within the NHL.

4.) Liiga

Finnish hockey league Liiga logo
Finnish hockey league Liiga brand

Finland’s high skilled ice hockey league, Liiga, is regarded by the IIHF because the second strongest league in all of Europe. Hockey’s recognition in Finland has skyrocketed and so has the nation’s success on the worldwide degree. Within the 2014 Olympic Video games in Sochi, Russia for instance, Finland completed with the bronze medal, knocking off the US squad in a 5-0 romp.

The Liiga has been thriving ever because it took over hockey duties in Finland from the SM-sarja in 1975. Viewership, assist, and the extent of hockey play in Finland has dramatically elevated during the last three and a half a long time and the Liiga additionally retains churning out NHL-caliber expertise. The Finnish league is comprised of 14 groups that compete for considered one of ten playoff spots in a span of 60 common season video games, with the highest six groups routinely coming into the quarter-final stage. The Czech Extraliga and Liiga make the most of the identical playoff format because the Seventh-Tenth seeds compete with one another for an opportunity to fulfill one of many 6 quarter-final contestants.

The Liiga additionally contributes a substantial quantity of expertise to the NHL and a few of Finland’s most extremely touted prospects similar to Mikael Granlund and Teemu Pulkkinen, are set to make their mark within the NHL considered one of as of late. Proficient NHLers similar to Aleksander Barkov, Sami Vatanen and Rasmus Ristolainen are all merchandise of the Liiga and the way forward for the league is as shiny as ever so long as it retains producing such wonderful expertise.

3.) SHL (Swedish Hockey League)

Swedish Hockey League logo
Swedish Hockey League brand

The Swedish Hockey League consists of 14 groups that play a 52 sport schedule. Very like the Czech Extraliga and Liiga, the Swedish Hockey League has a system that rewards a workforce 3 factors for a regulation win, 2 factors for an additional time win, and 1 level for an additional time loss. The highest eight of 12 groups make it to the playoffs, however the format of the primary playoff spherical is a bit fascinating for the reason that high three-seeded groups get to select their opponent out of the bottom-seeded groups for the primary spherical.

The SHL additionally makes use of a relegation and promotion system as the underside seeded groups within the SHL are pitted in opposition to the highest groups in Sweden’s second-tier league, HockeyAllsvenskan. The relegation sequence, which is dubbed Kvalserien, determines who shall be relegated to the second tier league and who shall be promoted to the Elite League.

Sweden has skilled large hockey success as of late on a global degree, successful gold on the 2012 World Junior Hockey Championship on the 2006 Winter Olympics. Except for Saab, Volvo, ABBA, and Ikea, the Swedes have been making fairly an affect on the NHL world as nicely. With names like Erik Karlsson, Victor Hedman, and the retired Daniel & Henrik Sedin contributing at a excessive degree to the NHL, it’s no shock why the Swedes have grow to be a dominant title within the hockey world during the last decade.

2.) Kontinental Hockey League (KHL)

KHL

The Kontinental Hockey League is broadly thought of the No. 2 professional hockey league on the earth, with the KHL is being considered the strongest ice hockey league in all of Europe. Since its founding in 2008, the KHL has launched 27 groups, with the highest 8 in every convention making the playoffs. The KHL playoff construction is sort of just like the NHL format, with the highest two groups from every convention competing for the Gagarin Cup.

What makes the KHL so fascinating is that it holds a wide range of gamers from totally different backgrounds and international locations. Even when the first expertise pool comes from Russia, they nonetheless pull gamers in from all around the world, together with expertise hotbeds like Canada and typically much less anticipated elements of the world like Nice Britain. This creates a very numerous participant base, that may solely be rivaled by the likes of the NHL by way of high quality and depth.

This range is seen within the location of KHL groups as nicely. After their most up-to-date growth to China, there are actually six franchises established outdoors of Russia, with the potential of a franchise in London as nicely. Whereas this possible creates some mind-boggling journey plans, it’s a powerful feat that ought to solely assist the league proceed rising in each dimension and high quality.

1.) Nationwide Hockey League (NHL)

NHL

Many professional hockey gamers abroad and in North America view the NHL because the final and most essential cease of their careers. Profitable contracts, media publicity, and an opportunity to win hockey’s final prize, Lord Stanley’s Cup, are among the many components that drive sure gamers to make it to the NHL stage. With 31 groups within the league, the NHL is certainly greater by way of each depth and total high quality than the KHL and has arguably the most effective expertise from world wide vying for one trophy.

Whereas some would possibly argue that the NHL grants essentially the most publicity to hockey gamers in North America, the Stanley Cup and its historical past is well-known all through the world. A number of the most gifted gamers to make an affect within the NHL have been developed abroad, however the NHL nonetheless stands unmatched within the pantheon of hockey leagues.

With their latest profitable growth to Las Vegas and Seattle, the NHL just isn’t solely rising however discovering new markets in North America who’re hungry for hockey. With every little thing in thoughts, it’s possible that the NHL will proceed being the highest hockey league on the earth for years to return.

Honorable Mentions

1.) Western Hockey League (WHL)

The Western Hockey League is considered one of three members of the Canadian Hockey League (CHL) that options 22 groups primarily based in Canada and the western a part of america. The WHL was established within the 1960’s and has grow to be a dominant pressure within the improvement of younger hockey gamers over time. Since its founding, the WHL had thrived, successful the memorial cup 19 occasions, most lately by the Edmonton Oil Kings in 2014.

Carey Price Montreal Canadiens
The WHL has produced many gamers who’ve had a significant affect on the NHL since its’ inception within the 1960’s. (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

When it comes to prospects, the WHL has produced many star gamers over time. A number of the greatest gamers presently within the NHL, together with Carey Worth, Shea Weber, Jamie Benn, Jordan Eberle and Ryan-Nugent Hopkins all discovered significant improvement within the WHL. Lately, the league has additionally been producing a few of the high younger defensemen within the NHL as nicely. This consists of present top-line defenders like Matt Dumba, Morgan Rielly, and Seth Jones.

pro hockey leagues

The Slovak Extraliga was based in 1993 after Czechoslovakia cut up into the Czech Republic and Slovakia. Regardless that the Slovakian league was a part of the Czech Extraliga earlier than 1993, the cut up has labored out nicely for each side because the Czech Republic and Slovakia proceed to provide high quality NHL gamers. A number of the most notable Slovakian gamers to have an effect on the NHL are Pavol Demitra, Zigmund Palffy, Marian Hossa, Marian Gaborik and Zdeno Chara.

Whereas the Slovakian league is just comprised of 10 groups, it has an fascinating facet that permits for the Slovakian U20 Junior workforce to play in some common season video games. Whereas the Slovakian Junior Workforce (HK Orange 20) can not compete within the playoffs and sure contests, the opposite groups within the league compete for considered one of eight playoff spots.

Because it’s inception, the Slovak Extraliga has largely been dominated by two groups, HC Kosice and HC Slovan Bratislava, who’ve each gained eight championships, tied for many in league historical past.

3.) Quebec Main Junior Hockey League (QMJHL) 

The QMJHL, the third member of the CHL, has delivered vital expertise to the NHL. NHL Corridor of Famers similar to Mario Lemieux, Mike Bossy, and Patrick Roy all performed in “The Q” and had spectacular careers within the NHL. Within the modern-day, gamers similar to Sidney Crosby signify QMJHL alumni which have made a major affect on the NHL.

QMJHL
Since 1969, the QMJHL has represented a improvement channel for a few of the high gamers within the NHL. (QMJHL/Photi Sotiropoulos)

Out of the three main junior hockey leagues, the QMJHL is understood most for producing gamers with immense offensive prowess. With latest alumni like Jonathan Drouin, Jonathan Huberdeau and Hart Trophy finalist Nathan MacKinnon tearing it up within the NHL, there’s little question “The Q” is aware of methods to incubate a few of the high offensive abilities on the earth.

Regardless that some detractors could reference the QMJHL’s lack of defensive play, the league has captured the Memorial Cup trophy six occasions since 2000 and stays one of the vital thrilling leagues for hockey in North America.