For professional ice hockey players, the ultimate goal is to play in the National Hockey League (NHL). However, for many young and talented athletes, a stepping stone exists between college hockey and the NHL – the American Hockey League (AHL).
The AHL is considered the second-highest level of professional ice hockey in North America, just below the NHL. It serves as a development league for young prospects and provides an opportunity for veteran players to continue their careers while hoping for a call-up to the show.
If you’re wondering whether playing in the AHL is financially viable, this blog post is perfect for you! Here, we’ll explore the salary secrets of AHL players – how much they make per season, who earns the most and the least, and why some players choose to take a pay cut to stay in the AHL instead of seeking greener pastures overseas.
So, if the question “How Much Do American Hockey League Players Make?” has been on your mind, read on to discover everything you need to know about salaries in the AHL!
The Average Salary of an AHL Player
The American Hockey League, or AHL for short, is a professional ice hockey league in North America. It serves as the primary developmental league for the National Hockey League (NHL). As such, many players who are not quite ready for the NHL hone their skills in the AHL before making the jump to the big leagues.
But how much money do these AHL players make? The answer, like with most things related to salaries, depends on a number of factors, including experience, skill level, and contractual obligations.
According to CapFriendly, which tracks player contracts and salary information, the average salary for an AHL player during the 2020-21 season was $78,580. This number takes into account all AHL players and does not differentiate between entry-level players and veterans. For comparison purposes, the NHL minimum salary for the same season was $700,000.
It’s important to note that not all AHL players earn the average salary. Entry-level players, who typically have no prior professional experience before joining the AHL, tend to earn less than veteran players. Additionally, players who sign two-way contracts, meaning they can be sent back down to the minors at any time, may also earn less than those with one-way contracts, which guarantee payment regardless of where the player is assigned.
How AHL Player Salaries Compare to NHL Salaries
As mentioned earlier, the NHL has a minimum salary of $700,000 per season for the 2020-21 season. This means that even the lowest-paid NHL players earn significantly more than the average AHL player.
Top NHL players, meanwhile, can earn tens of millions of dollars annually through both salary and endorsements. For example, according to Forbes magazine, Connor McDavid of the Edmonton Oilers was set to earn $18.5 million during the 2020-21 season, with $15 million of that coming from his salary and the remainder coming from endorsements.
But while AHL players may not earn the kind of money their NHL counterparts do, they still have the opportunity to showcase their skills in front of scouts and coaches who could one day offer them a shot at the big leagues. For many players, this opportunity is priceless.
Salary Differences Between AHL and ECHL Players
The East Coast Hockey League, or ECHL, is another minor league hockey organization that serves as a lower-level developmental league for both the AHL and NHL. So how does the average salary of an ECHL player compare to that of an AHL player?
According to Salary Sport, which tracks professional sports salaries across the globe, the average salary for an ECHL player during the 2020-21 season was $750 per week. This works out to roughly $39,000 annually if the player is on roster for the entire season. By comparison, even the lowest-paid AHL players earned more than twice that amount during the same time frame.
It’s worth noting that like the AHL, entry-level players in the ECHL may earn less than veterans. However, unlike the AHL, there are no two-way contracts in the ECHL. Therefore, all ECHL players are guaranteed payment for the entire season regardless of where they play.
“The vast majority of us aren’t playing because we’re making hundreds of thousands of dollars,” said Alex Brooks, a former ECHL defenseman, in an interview with The Athletic. “We’re playing because we love the game and still dream of getting paid enough one day to do it full-time.”
While AHL players may not earn the kind of salaries that NHL stars do, they still have the opportunity to pursue their passion and develop their skills in hopes of one day making it to the next level. And for players in lower-tiered leagues like the ECHL, playing the game they love is often enough to keep them motivated despite modest paychecks.
Factors That Affect AHL Player Salaries
Experience and Skill Level
The American Hockey League (AHL) is a minor league that serves as a developmental platform for players who aspire to play in the National Hockey League (NHL). Thus, player salaries in the AHL often depend on their experience and skill level. The more experienced and skilled a player is, the higher their salary will be.
According to CapFriendly’s AHL database, the average salary for a player in the AHL during the 2019-2020 season was $90,942 USD. However, this figure can vary greatly depending on a player’s status.
For instance, veteran players with several years of experience under their belt typically earn higher salaries compared to rookies or younger players who are just starting out in their careers. Additionally, players who have been drafted into the NHL tend to earn more than undrafted free agents because their draft status allows them to negotiate better contracts.
Team Budgets and Market Size
Another factor that affects AHL player salaries is a team’s budget. Each AHL team has a set budget that they allocate towards their players’ salaries. Teams with larger budgets can afford to pay their players more, while teams with smaller budgets may offer lower salaries.
Market size is another consideration when discussing AHL player salaries. Bigger markets such as Toronto, Chicago, and Montreal tend to have stronger fan bases and generate more revenue through ticket sales and sponsorships. Therefore, players on these teams may earn more money through endorsement deals or receive higher salaries due to increased revenue streams.
Conversely, smaller market teams may have fewer revenue streams, which can affect their ability to offer competitive salaries and attract top-tier talent. Nonetheless, some smaller market teams have found success by developing players internally and offering them opportunities to grow within the organization.
Sponsorship and Endorsement Deals
In addition to salaries paid by their respective teams, AHL players can also earn money through sponsorship and endorsement deals. These types of deals are similar to those offered to professional athletes in other sports leagues around the world.
Some notable examples of current and former NHL stars who have earned significant amounts of money through endorsement deals include Sidney Crosby, Connor McDavid, and Wayne Gretzky. Even though these players compete at the highest level of hockey, they still earn a significant portion of their income from endorsement deals with companies like Gatorade, Nike, and Tim Hortons.
While AHL players may not have the same level of exposure as NHL players, they can still attract sponsorships and endorsement deals from local businesses or equipment manufacturers. For instance, some AHL players partner with brands such as CCM, Bauer, or Warrior to promote their products on social media or during games.
“At the end of the day, it’s always great for your brand and for the sport when you get fans talking about it,” says forward Zac Rinaldo, who has represented companies such as Oakley and BioSteel in the past.
As evidenced above, there are several factors that determine how much AHL players make. From experience and skill level to team budgets and market size to sponsorship and endorsement deals, each player’s income is influenced by a variety of external factors that are beyond their control. Nonetheless, many players continue to pursue their dreams of playing professional hockey because of their love for the game and the opportunity to achieve success on and off the ice.
Do AHL Players Get Paid During the Off-Season?
American Hockey League (AHL) players face a grueling schedule from October to April, which is when their regular season takes place. Considering that many of these professional athletes have played hockey for much of their lives, it’s only natural to wonder how they make money during the off-season.
Payment for AHL Players on NHL Contracts
AHL players who are under contract with an NHL team will receive payment throughout the year whether they’re playing or not. According to CapFriendly, an online resource for NHL and AHL salary information, players within an NHL organization can expect a minimum annual salary of $45,000 when they sign their first professional contract. As they gain experience, however, the amount increases–a player starting his fourth year in the AHL, for instance, could earn up to $70,000. Of course, those who are lucky enough to get promoted to the NHL level, where even entry-level salaries now exceed $800,000, stand to make even more.
This system works to ensure that AHL players still receive compensation during the off-season, but what if they don’t hold an NHL contract? That leads us to the next section…
Options for AHL Players Without NHL Contracts
For AHL players without NHL contracts, finding financial stability during the off-season requires other strategies. Some go back home and participate in local sponsorship events or work as coaches or instructors at youth hockey camps. Others head overseas to play in leagues such as Sweden’s Allsvenskan or Finland’s Liiga, where players can command high salaries due to stronger currencies and lower tax rates. Yet another option is to take part-time jobs such as serving at restaurants or working retail to supplement income while waiting for the new season.
AHL players without NHL contracts are not salaried unless provided for in their individual AHL contract, which can vary widely. In general an AHL player could earn anywhere from $39,000 to $100,000 per year but unlike the NHL, there is no minimum salary requirement. This means that a team can choose to pay its players any amount it deems appropriate, regardless of experience or skill level.
“I remember my first professional paycheck was something like $400 every two weeks,” revealed Tampa Bay Lightning forward Tyler Johnson in an interview with The Hockey News. “It’s tough getting used to when you don’t come from a lot of money…but it’s all worth it if you stick with it and make it where you want to go.”
All things considered, playing hockey professionally is less about how much money you’re making during the off-season and more about what you do during that time to improve your skills. As former NHL head coach Mike Babcock once said: “The best thing you can do outside of hockey is be an athlete.” Whether it’s staying in peak physical condition or developing new on-ice abilities, pursuing growth opportunities generally leads to success both personally and financially.
How Much Do AHL Top Scorers Make?
Salary Range for AHL Top Scorers
The American Hockey League, also known as the AHL, is the primary developmental league in North America for professional hockey players who aspire to play in the NHL. As with any professional sport, players earn salaries based on their performance and experience.
In the 2020-21 season, the average salary for an AHL player was $90,000 per year. However, top scorers can make significantly more than this amount. The highest-paid players in the AHL reportedly earn up to $475,000 annually.
It’s worth noting that many players in the AHL are not full-time professionals and choose to maintain other jobs or pursue educational opportunities while playing in the league. For these players, the financial compensation may be significantly lower than what a top scorer would typically earn.
Bonus Structures for AHL Top Scorers
Apart from their base salary, top-scoring AHL players may also receive bonuses. These bonuses could be tied to individual achievements, such as scoring a certain number of goals, or team accomplishments, like winning the Calder Cup, which is awarded to the AHL playoff champions each year.
According to Cap Friendly, a website dedicated to tracking NHL and AHL salaries, some common bonuses that AHL players might receive include: signing bonuses, performance bonuses, reporting bonuses, and trade bonuses. Performance bonuses, in particular, offer players additional income incentives for reaching specific milestones over the course of a season. For instance, if a player scores a predetermined number of points or goals in a season, they could potentially earn thousands of dollars in bonuses alongside their regular salary.
“Performance-based bonuses are pretty significant. You put the time in and hope it pays off,” said Kyle Palmieri, an NHL pro who played in the AHL before becoming a regular in the big leagues.
However, not all AHL players are eligible for bonuses. To qualify, they must sign an NHL contract that includes bonus clauses or play on an entry-level contract. Bonuses can be an essential part of a player’s salary package, and teams often use them to incentivize performance and keep players motivated throughout the season.
Overall, while AHL salaries may be lower than their counterparts in the NHL, top-scoring players still have the potential to earn very competitive wages. With additional earning opportunities through performance-based bonuses, reaching such aims requires hard work, skill, and dedication If you’re looking at a career in professional hockey, aiming to become one of the league’s leading scorers is undoubtedly a path worth pursuing.
Is the AHL a Viable Career Path for Hockey Players?
The American Hockey League (AHL) is considered one of the best developmental leagues in the world for hockey players. It serves as the primary minor league system for the National Hockey League (NHL), allowing young and aspiring players to develop their skills before making it to the big leagues.
Advantages of Playing in the AHL
There are several advantages to playing in the AHL as a hockey player, including:
- Development opportunities: The AHL provides ample opportunity for players to hone their skills and improve their game. They can learn from experienced coaches and play alongside more seasoned players, gaining valuable experience that will prepare them for a career in the NHL.
- Exposure: Playing in the AHL allows players to showcase their talent to NHL scouts and other industry professionals who attend games regularly in search of promising new talent. This exposure can lead to potential contracts with NHL teams.
- Salary and benefits: While salaries in the AHL are significantly lower than those in the NHL, they still offer a decent income that allows players to support themselves while pursuing their careers. In addition, many teams offer benefits such as health insurance and retirement savings plans.
Disadvantages of Playing in the AHL
While there are certainly benefits to playing in the AHL, there are also some drawbacks that aspiring players should consider.
- Lower pay: As mentioned earlier, the difference in salary between the AHL and NHL is significant. According to Indeed.com, the average annual salary for an AHL player is $51,000-$93,000 compared to the minimum NHL salary of $700,000. This can make it difficult for players to support themselves and their families, especially early in their careers.
- Travel: With teams spread out across the country, travel is a significant part of life in the AHL. Players often spend long hours on buses traveling from game to game, which can be grueling and exhausting.
- Fewer resources: Unlike NHL teams, AHL teams have fewer resources at their disposal. They may not be able to provide state-of-the-art training facilities or top-of-the-line equipment, which can hinder player development and performance.
“The AHL grind can wear on some players, but the league offers the best opportunity for young prospects to develop their skills and eventually earn a spot in the NHL.” -Joe Yerdon, NHL writer
Playing in the AHL can be a viable career path for hockey players who are willing to put in the work and dedication required to succeed. While there are certainly challenges to overcome, the experience gained and connections made in the league can pay off in the form of an eventual contract with an NHL team.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is the average salary for American Hockey League players?
The average salary for American Hockey League players is around $90,000 per year. However, this can vary depending on factors such as experience, performance, and position played.
Do AHL players receive any bonuses or incentives?
Yes, AHL players can receive bonuses and incentives for various reasons, such as making the playoffs, winning awards, or hitting certain performance milestones. These bonuses can increase their overall salary.
How do AHL player salaries compare to those in the National Hockey League?
AHL player salaries are significantly lower than those in the National Hockey League. The average NHL salary is around $2.6 million per year, while the average AHL salary is around $90,000 per year.
Are AHL player salaries subject to negotiation or are they set by the league?
AHL player salaries are subject to negotiation between the player and their team. However, there is a salary cap in place that limits how much teams can spend on player salaries each season.
What factors determine an AHL player’s salary?
The factors that determine an AHL player’s salary include their experience, performance, position played, and demand for their skills. Additionally, the salary cap and team budget can also impact an AHL player’s salary.