What Is Tier 1 Hockey? [Expert Review!]

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Hockey is back! And this year there are more options for people to become involved in the exciting game than ever before. Between the NHL, the KHL, and the AHL, there is plenty of top-level hockey for everyone and every budget.

However, aside from the fact that hockey is back, a lot has changed since last year. The number of tiers in hockey has increased, making it more complicated for new players to find the right path to the top. We take a look at what is tier 1 hockey and how to get there.

NHL And The USA Hockey Ladder

Last year the National Hockey League (NHL) canceled the remainder of its schedule due to the coronavirus pandemic. Since then, the game has largely restarted, although with restrictions on player movement and contact, as well as a number of teams switching between the NHL and the American Hockey League (AHL) due to population shifts and lack of available players. As a result, the competitive landscape has shifted significantly.

In 2021 the NHL is dividing its schedule into three tiers, with the first and second tier games being played prior to and between the All-Star Break. These games count toward the teams’ season standings, with the top eight teams in each conference qualifying for the playoffs. The top tier also earns the right to host the all-important Stanley Cup Final. All of this is making it more important for NHL players to focus on their games and perform well in order to climb the ladder.

The USA Hockey Ladder also underwent a makeover for the 2021 season. The United States Hockey League (USHL) implemented a new format that pits teams against each other in a single division, with the top team from each division qualifying for the playoffs. The USHL also made the decision to expand its season to 17 games, with all the games counting toward the final standings.

The Kontinental Hockey League

The Kontinental Hockey League (KHL) also went through some significant changes due to the pandemic. The league reduced the number of regular-season games played from 18 to 16, and split its season into two halves, with the first half being a 10-game regular season and the second half being a six-game playoff. These changes made it simpler for teams to qualify for the playoffs and increased the importance of winning games during the first half of the season.

The KHL has also modified its points system, rewarding the top five teams in each of the two leagues for their regular-season performances. The top team from each division will receive the greatest number of points regardless of whether they win or lose. The winning team will also receive three points for each game and each goal scored, and two points for each assist. The losing team will also receive two points for each goal scored and one point for each assist. Teams will receive one point for each game they lose.


The AHL is the official minor league affiliate of the NHL, serving as its primary developmental league. The teams in the American Hockey League are divided into two conferences – the Atlantic Division and the Pacific Division. The top teams from each division meet in the playoffs, with the winner being crowned the conference champion and going on to represent the NHL in the Stanley Cup Final. The teams in the AHL are responsible for nurturing and developing NHL players, often playing a critical role in their journey to the top and keeping them healthy throughout their tenure in the league.

What Is Tier 2 Hockey?

With the recent changes to the USA Hockey and NHL ladders, it is important to remember that there is another tier of hockey that is still very important to keep in mind. While the first two tiers focus on the NHL and the AHL, respectively, the third and final tier is made up of the various youth hockey leagues across North America.

Tier 2 hockey is where many promising young players go to develop their skills and earn their place in the pros. The leagues and organizations in this tier are separated by geographical location, giving players the opportunity to play in front of family and friends, as well as develop their talent and earn a spot in the pros. Many players who have grown up playing in the minor leagues have gone on to successful NHL careers, including Joe Pavelski, Matt Duchene, and Patrice Bergeron.

While it is great to have hockey back, it is also important to remember that the game has changed since last year. A new season brings new opportunities, but also new challenges for players looking to make the jump to the next level.

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