Minor league hockey, also known as minor pro hockey, is a level of professional ice hockey that serves as a feeder system for the National Hockey League (NHL).
Thes league provides a platform for young players to develop their skills and gain experience before making the jump to the NHL. They also provide opportunities for older players who may not have been able to secure a spot on an NHL team.
In this article, we will explore the world of minor league hockey, including its history, structure, and how it fits into the broader landscape of professional hockey.
Read on, as we will also closely examine the different levels of minor league hockey and the players who compete in them.
What is the Difference Between the AHL and NHL?
The American Hockey League (AHL) and the National Hockey League (NHL) are both professional ice hockey leagues.
However, the NHL is considered the premier league for ice hockey, while the AHL is considered a secondary league. Interestingly, the NHL and AHL have 31 teams competing in their leagues.
These teams are also divided into two conferences and four divisions. Notwithstanding, the difference in both leagues lies in the quality of their players.
While the NHL is home to the best ice hockey players in the world, the AHL is considered the top development league for the NHL.
As you must have already guessed, the level of play in the NHL is generally considered top-notch than that of the AHL. What’s more?… The NHL has a larger fan base and generates more revenue than the AHL.
This is because the NHL has a global following, while the AHL is primarily followed in North America. Another difference between the two leagues lies in their salary cap.
While the NHL has a salary cap, which helps to maintain a level of parity among teams, the AHL does not. Lastly, the NHL has a longer schedule and playoffs as compared to the AHL.
How Do Players Join the AHL?
Players can join the American Hockey League (AHL) by being signed to an AHL contract by a team in the league.
Some players may also be assigned to an AHL team by the National Hockey League (NHL) team that holds their rights. Additionally, players may be signed to professional tryout contracts (PTOs) by an AHL team.
Can NHL Teams Call up AHL Players During the Season?
Yes, NHL teams can call up players from their AHL affiliate team during the season. This is commonly referred to as a “call-up” or “recall.”
The process allows teams to bring up players from their minor league team to the NHL as needed, such as to replace injured players or to provide additional depth.
The players are typically returned to the AHL team once the need for them in the NHL has passed. A player who is called up from an AHL-affiliated team by an NHL team will be managed either by a one-way 0r two-way contract.
If he is legally bound by a One-Way NHL Contract, then he will receive the same pay regardless of which league he plays for.
In a nutshell, the hockey player will still earn the same salary from his NHL team if he is loaned to an AHL team. Plus, his NHL team will still be held responsible for his salary.
However, if the player is bound by a Two-Way NHL Contract, he will receive a higher payment while playing for the NHL. However, if he is traded down to the AHL, then his salary is expected to drop.
Do AHL Teams Play in the Same City or State as their NHL Team?
Some AHL teams are located in the same city or state as their NHL affiliate team, while others are situated in different locations.
For example, the AHL affiliate team of the Washington Capitals (the Hershey Bears), is located in Hershey, Pennsylvania, which is about 90 miles west of Washington D.C.
On the other hand, the AHL affiliate team of the Toronto Maple Leafs (the Toronto Marlies), are located in the same city, Toronto.
It’s common for NHL teams to have their AHL affiliate team located in a nearby city or state, as it makes it easier for them to call up and send players back and forth between the two teams. However, this is not always the case.
The location of many NHL teams’ affiliate teams depends on the agreement between the teams, the location of their fan base, and the possibilities of the arena to play the games.
What is the Pay Difference Between AHL and NHL Players?
The pay difference between AHL and NHL players can be significant. AHL players typically earn significantly less than NHL players.
Furthermore, the minimum salary for an AHL player is around $50,000 per year. On the other hand, the minimum salary for an NHL player is around $700,000 per year.
It’s important to note that there are variations in the salary of an NHL player. As a result, some could earn much more than the average, others could earn less, depending on the skill level, experience, and role of the player.
However, in general, NHL players earn much more than their AHL counterparts. It’s also important to note that the salary for AHL players is not as stable as that of NHL players.
Truth is, most AHL players are on contracts that are signed for a short period, and they don’t have the same benefits as the NHL players, such as health insurance and pension plans.
End Note: What is Minor League Hockey?
In conclusion, minor league hockey refers to professional hockey leagues that are below the level of the National Hockey League (NHL).
These leagues serve as a development ground for young players, as well as a place for older players to continue their careers.
The American Hockey League (AHL) is the primary minor league for the NHL, but there are also other leagues, such as the ECHL, the Southern Professional Hockey League (SPHL), and the Federal Hockey League (FHL).
Minor league hockey teams often have affiliations with NHL teams, allowing for the easy movement of players between the two levels.
Additionally, players in the minor leagues typically earn less than those in the NHL, with an average salary of around $51,000 per year.
However, the minor leagues provide an important stepping stone for players looking to reach the highest level of professional hockey and the opportunity to live their dream of becoming an NHL player.
Despite the pay difference, minor league hockey is an integral part of the sport and an exciting spectacle for fans to enjoy.