How Much Do Professional Hockey Players Get Paid? [Expert Guide!]

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If you’ve ever watched a game of hockey, you probably know that the sport is immensely popular worldwide. Thanks to the increasing number of NHL teams, players are finding it easier to move around and potentially play in different leagues. This competitive spirit has made it a popular sport for children and adults alike, making it one of the most popular sports in the world.

While pro hockey players may not always be making the most money, the career definitely has its perks. There are a number of professional hockey players who earn six-figure salaries and even more who can pull in hundreds of thousands per year. This blog post will break down exactly how much the top hockey players earn, both now and in their careers ahead.

The Most Popular Sport In The World

According to the International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF), 40.4 million people around the world play ice hockey (31.8 million in Europe and 8.6 million in North America). The popularity of the sport actually shows no signs of slowing, with over 12 million people playing the game worldwide in 2019. This year’s Summer Olympics in Tokyo will mark the 70th anniversary of the sport, with a number of gold medal favorites taking part.

It would be a missed opportunity if we don’t mention the growing presence of hockey in Asia. The IIHF reports that there are now over 300,000 players in the Asia-Pacific region, with the number increasing by about 10% each year. This puts Asia on ice for the first time at the Summer Olympics since 1998, when Sydney, Australia hosted the games. Back then there were just over 500,000 players in the entire Asia-Pacific region, so the number has more than doubled since then.

An Unmatched Combination Of Skill And Talent

With the world’s most popular sport attracting fans of all ages, it’s no wonder that young children want to grow up to be like their favorite hockey players. One of the most talented players to ever lace up a pair of skates was none other than Wayne Gretzky, who went on to have a hockey-playing career that lasted nearly 40 years. During that time, he set numerous records and starred on the world’s biggest hockey stage, the NHL.

One of the greatest advantages of being a professional hockey player is the access you have to elite sports facilities. The IIHF reports that hockey players have access to over 500 top-level facilities worldwide, with over 150 of those located in Europe alone. That’s more than enough opportunities for the sport’s elite to train at the highest level.

Another perk of playing hockey is the community of professionals that you’ll connect with. Thanks to globalization, players can now pursue their careers in different locations, leading to an abundance of social opportunities. The IIHF reports that almost 70% of its members are from outside of North America, with over 30% living abroad. This unique lifestyle provides an abundance of cultural opportunities.

Which Leagues And Teams Pay The Most?

The most popular sport in the world doesn’t always earn its keep. While the NHL (National Hockey League) is home to some of the biggest names in the world of hockey, it isn’t always the most lucrative league. The reasons for this are relatively simple. First off, the NHL isn’t the most competitive of the International Ice Hockey Federations (IIHF) leagues; therefore, not all of its teams are guaranteed to win games. Second, a lot of the revenue comes from advertising, with companies like Subway, Anheuser-Busch, and MasterCard providing significant support.

The top-level professional hockey leagues in Europe, by comparison, generate a lot more money and have more competitive teams. Leagues like the Swedish Hockey League (SHL), Finnish Hockey League (FHL), and the Czech Extraliga (CEL) all have a much higher average annual salary than the NHL.

A Hockey Career That Lasts A Lifetime

The popularity of ice hockey among children and adults alike is clear. Kids grow up idolizing their favorite players and dreaming of following in their footsteps. But what happens when your childhood dreams don’t match up with the actual career you’ve been handed?

While the perks of a hockey career may not be what you expected, with over 12 million people playing the world’s most popular sport, opportunities still exist for those who want to make the most of it. The bottom line is that while some hockey players do earn a decent living, it still isn’t what you’d call a stable career. Most players will tell you that the glory days of pro hockey are gone, with the salary cap having removed the guarantee of financial security. Most players rely on loans and sponsorships to make ends meet, with fewer and fewer having secure places on their team’s roster each year.

How Much Does A Hockey Goonie Make?

Now, we’re not going to dive into the psychology of becoming a hockey goon. That would be a whole different blog post. Suffice it to say that there are numerous opportunities to make a good living as a hockey goon, with most teams struggling to field a 12-player roster each night. The most popular hockey team in North America, for instance, is the New York Islanders, who had one of the top-rated goon squads in the NHL in 2018-19. Each year, the Islanders’ “Goon Game” presents the winner with a £50,000 contract to fill one of the team’s vacant spots. The last known winner of the Goon Game was Jack McAteer in 1979. It’s not inconceivable that someone might want to revisit this opportunity in light of the current economic climate.

The Top-Level Players

While the NHL isn’t always the most financially rewarding league, it does provide us with some of the greatest hockey players the world has ever seen. As mentioned above, Wayne Gretzky is unquestionably the greatest hockey player of all time, not just because of his brilliant career, but also because of the way he played. The Hockey Hall of Famer enjoyed a stellar career that spanned over 400 games and included two NHL (National Hockey League) scoring titles. In 1983, he was also voted the No. 1 Player of the Year by his fellow professionals – a feat he repeated in 1984 and 1985, as well.

Gretzky’s exceptional talent saw him play for the Los Angeles Kings and the New York Rangers during his career. He was also a member of the Canadian national team that won the 1988 Canada Men’s Hockey Tournament. In a 2000 interview, Gretzky revealed that he didn’t think he would’ve been able to sustain a long career in professional hockey if the NHL didn’t expand to Canada.

The next great hockey player arguably belongs to the greatest generation of hockey players ever. At 5′ 10″, the great Gordie Howe was perhaps the most charismatic and intimidating player of his time. The hockey legend wore size 16 shoe, was the driving force behind the construction of the Howe Line (now the Gordie Howe Bridge), and had a distinctive deep voice that could be heard for blocks. Howe, who died in 2016, was the patriarch of a hockey dynasty that included his son, Ted, and grandsons, Mark and Marty. The Howes have won 23 Stanley Cups combined, the most won by any family in NHL history. While Gordie Howe’s career wasn’t exactly the most financially rewarding, he did earn a six-figure salary from the Rochester Americans of the American Hockey League in his later years.

Gretzky wasn’t the only NHL star to play for the Los Angeles Kings in the 1980s. The team had other famous players like Pat Kane, who scored the championship-winning goal in the 1981 Stanley Cup Final, and Daryl Evans, who was a two-time Olympian and a member of the 1982 and 1983 Canadian World Championship teams. Evans, who played for the Kings from 1980 to 1990, is currently the manager of their hockey operations department.

The French Connection

If you thought the 1980s were something, just imagine how good this decade of hockey would be. It’s not merely that more opportunities exist for players to pursue their dreams of being a professional hockey player, but that the quality of play is much improved. While some of the top NHL players may be getting older, the competition is still fierce, and the level of play is better than ever before.

What’s more, thanks to improved technologies and greater access to information, scouts have more data at their fingertips than ever before. This means that more players are getting noticed and subsequently signed to multi-year NHL contracts in today’s NHL.

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