How Much Do Federal Hockey League Players Make? [Answered!]

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The 2015-16 NHL season saw the return of the NHL in its entirety and the creation of the Federal Hockey League (FHL). The FHL is an independent league consisting of teams in Ontario and Quebec. The league’s inaugural season marked a turning point in the history of Canadian professional ice hockey, as it was the first year that the number of professional hockey teams in Canada was officially equal to the number of NHL teams. That milestone was reached with eight teams, with the addition of the Victoria Grizzlies becoming the ninth team. Despite the differences in the size of the leagues, the financials of the FHL are quite similar to those of the NHL. In fact, the league is financially self-sufficient and profitable, with most teams posting a revenue between $1.1 and $1.7 million in 2015-16. While that’s a good sign for the FHL, it probably means that the owners and senior management of those teams are doing something right.

The Numbers Don’t Lie

The NHL and FHL both use the same sorts of statistical analyses to determine their payouts, so we can compare apples to apples (sort of). According to Scott Billeck of Cap Friendly, the official salary calculator of the NHL, a single forward (with a minimum salary of $845,000) in the NHL made $13.23/hr in 2014-15. A similar player in the FHL would have made $12.86/hr. Taking into consideration the rising cost of living in Canada, as well as the increased demand for skilled labor, that would have put his earning power at a level close to that of a premier league soccer player in Europe, let alone an NHL player.

To determine how much the remaining FHL players earn, Billeck looked at the median salary of a forward in the league ($105,000) and used that as a benchmark to determine the salaries of other positions. Among defensemen, he found that the median income was $95,000, so that’s the benchmark for determining their salaries. A goaltender in the FHL earns a median salary of $85,000, while coaches earn $70,000.

From these figures, we can see that the FHL is a relatively equitable league when compared to the NHL. However, while the ratio of players to teams is about the same as it was in the NHL, the cost of being a part of the FHL is that there are a lot fewer winning teams. Only four of the league’s eight teams qualify as profitable (earning over $1.1 million), while the other four are in the red.

Where Do They Play?

The FHL is based in a geographic area that’s home to a lot of hockey fans. In fact, Toronto alone is home to five of the eight teams in the league. However, while hockey is a popular sport in the area, it’s not necessarily the case that all the residents are hardcore fans. Most live in the suburbs or commute into the city for work, so even those who are keen on the sport may not have the opportunity to attend all of the games.

As for where the FHL teams play, all of them are either at or close to home. The Toronto Maple Leafs were the first to admit that they didn’t have the opportunity to grow their own fan base in Ontario, so they looked towards the city they call home for support.

“When we relocated, the fans were incredibly supportive. We knew right away that this was the kind of community that we were going to want to be a part of.” – Mike Babcock, Toronto Maple Leafs

Even with a relatively small population, Toronto is one of the most multicultural cities in the world. With a large Chinese community, the city also has a large Vietnamese population, which is a key demographic for the Maple Leafs. Hockey is a common point of conversation among all of these communities, which explains why the Maple Leafs have managed to create an identity for themselves as a team that is both accessible and entertaining.

The fans in Toronto have also created an atmosphere of support that extends beyond the rink. In the city, there are numerous bars and restaurants that are dedicated to serving the unique restaurant needs of the Toronto Maple Leafs fanbase. These pubs and clubs work hard to ensure that every visitor and resident has a good experience while in Toronto, and that the members of the Toronto Maple Leafs community have good reason to remain there.

How Do They Play?

Now that we have an idea of how much the FHL players earn, it’s time to talk about how they play. Even though the teams in the FHL are relatively new, having only been established in 2015, they’ve already made a major impact on the hockey world. After just one year of existence, the league boasts an 8-2 record and a.667 winning percentage, outperforming even the most optimistic projections. While these stats don’t tell the whole story, they’re a good indicator of how well the FHL is doing.

The teams in the FHL are allowed to add a total of six players to their roster, with three of those players being forwards, one defenseman, and two goalies. This gives them the flexibility to keep their top players and add more depth at the same time.

With the addition of the Victoria Grizzlies, the FHL now has eight teams and, at a minimum, 48 players on their roster. However, each team can be as strong as 15 players, which allows for a total of one hundred sixty players.

In terms of the game itself, it’s safe to say that the FHL is playing a different kind of hockey than the NHL. Unlike the more defensive, trap-style hockey of the NHL, the FHL is all about speed and skill. In fact, the league has adopted a simple but effective strategy to carve out a niche for themselves in a crowded market – they’ve built their brand based on young, athletic players and have focused heavily on developing their talent in the areas of speed, skill, and physicality.

These facets of the game make the FHL quite unique and, at the same time, extremely entertaining to watch. In terms of pure speed, this coming season will see the leagues add additional rinks, creating more opportunities for players to showcase their ability.

A League on the Rise

Like many professional sports leagues, the NHL and the FHL undergo a process of restructuring and rebranding every few years to stay fresh and relevant to their target audience. It’s a difficult task, as a rebranding inevitably means that the stats and records from the previous version disappear, leaving only the faintest memories for those who were there at the time.

Still, it’s necessary work, as people grow tired of old sports rivalries and want to see new ones blossom. After just one year of existence, the FHL is already a proven entity and a breeding ground for future stars.

An Opportunity For Canada

Like many professional sports leagues, the NHL and the FHL are very aware of their respective countries’ (and therefore, their league’s) geographic affiliations. For the FHL, that means they’re acutely aware of the fact that all of their teams are located in either Ontario or Quebec, which is a great opportunity for Canadian players. Even if they don’t live in the regions, there are a lot of fans who travel to the games, making it a chance to win some fans and boost the team’s presence in their home province.

However, despite the opportunity, very few Canadians have actually signed with a FHL team. With the exception of the Montreal Alouettes (who had two players from their French-speaking communities), most teams have been populated with American players. That hasn’t stopped the FHL from promoting itself as a destination for Canadian athletes, though.

“Whether you’re a former national team player or a professional hockey player looking for a new challenge, we’d love to have you join our team.” – FHL Twitter

What’s Next?

With the end of the 2015-16 NHL season, the off-season is upon us. In terms of the FHL, one of the first things that the league will do is to start formulating their plan for the next season. With several teams posting profits, they’re in a good position to add depth and supplement their roster with some of the newer, more exciting NHL players. Ahead of the coming season, I’d like to hear from you. What do you think of the FHL? Is it something that you’d consider competing in?

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