How Much Do Professional Hockey Players Make A Year? [Fact Checked!]

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If you want to be a professional hockey player, you’ll need to put in the time and effort to make it in the game. The average annual income for a professional hockey player is around $2.5 million in the United States and Canada. While this may not seem like a lot, it’s amazing how much this amount can vary depending on the year and what position you play in the League. We took a look at some of the interesting facts surrounding professional hockey players, earnings, and salaries.

The Highest-Paid Players

It’s no secret that professional hockey players are among the highest paid employees in the world. Several seasons bring in as much as $10 million and even a few weeks can bring in $1 million or more. Let’s take a quick trip down memory lane and revisit some of the biggest contracts from the past few years.

In 2011, Daniel Sedin became the first to surpass the $10 million season mark in income. His twin brother, Henrik, also had an exceptional year, racking up 130 points, good for second on the team. The next highest paid player that season was Boston Bruins center Gregory Campbell, who made $10.25 million.

Campbell, however, was not the only high-earner that year. Evander Kane, who spent the previous two seasons with the Atlanta Thrashers, also had an incredible year, amassing 114 points, which were good for seventh on the team – and that was only his second season in the League. Teams are now allowed to offer arbitration to players as an alternative to going through a lengthy contract negotiation process, so it’s likely we’ll see even more players hit the $10 million club in the coming years.

The Highest-Earning Positions

While it’s not uncommon to see a player earn considerably more than the $2.5 million mark, it is somewhat uncommon to see a position make as much. The highest paid positions in hockey are as follows:

  • Goalie – Usually the highest-paid position on a team, goalies can make even more when they are considered the “star” players on their teams. They’ll also earn extra money for being “set-up men” on penalty shots and winning games in overtime. They’ll need to be extremely reliable since they are usually the last line of defense, making tens of thousands of saves per season. The average goalie salary is around $3.5 million per year
  • Defenseman – While the defense doesn’t get as much screen time as the goalie position, they still get paid very well. The top-paid defenseman earned a little over $3 million last year.
  • Center – The center is one of the most important positions in hockey. They are responsible for moving the puck quickly and effectively from one end of the ice to the other. Due to increased specialization, centers now earn more than their fair share of money, making over $3.5 million annually.
  • Left Wing – Left wings are also responsible for moves along the ice as well as for setting up their teammates for scoring chances, so they earn similar salaries to centers ($3.5 – $4.5 million)

Pay Slumps For Some Players

It’s always nice when a player has an exceptional season and earns a large amount of money, but it also means the rest of the year is basically a pay slump. While the income of a professional hockey player varies from year to year, there are a few positions and players that have experienced consistent pay drops. The top-paid player in 2011 and 2010 was Patrice Bergeron, who played for the Boston Bruins. In 2011, he made $7.5 million, but in 2010 that figure was below $4 million. Defenseman Zdeno Chara is an other example of a player that saw his earnings drop from $11.5 million in 2010 to $4 million in 2011. This is largely due to the NHL entering a contract dispute with the Players’ Association at the end of the 2010 season, which eventually led to a lockout that lasted for a full year. Despite the tough economic times, Chara still managed to find the time to play in 67 games, posting 43 points, which were good for first among all NHL defenseman. This is most likely because he was one of the first high-profile hockey players to sign a contract with an agent, which likely entailed less job security for him and more opportunities for his to attract the highest levels of sponsorships. In the coming years, Chara could see an increase in earnings if the lockout is not repeated and the NHL and Players’ Association can reach a new Collective Bargaining Agreement.

Pay In The Southern U.S. Is Different

While the highest paid players in hockey are making a fortune, the opposite is true in the Southern U.S. The average annual salary of a professional hockey player in the Southern U.S. is around $1.5 – $2 million, which is considerably less than the $3.5 – $4.5 million made by their counterparts in the north. The difference in pay can largely be attributed to how the game is played down south. The National Hockey League is fully equipped to operate in the Southern U.S., which is most likely why it is one of the most popular sports leagues in the area. The salaries of players in the Southern U.S. are also typically higher because many teams have the option of playing home games in the southern part of their states instead of having to travel all the way to the north.

It’s clear that hockey players are among the highest paid employees in the world, but just how big of a role does playing in the game play in determining how much they make? Let’s take a quick look at some of the variables that can affect one’s earnings as a professional hockey player..

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