Salaries in professional hockey vary greatly. North America's National Hockey League, or NHL, stands out as the top tier of competition, featuring the world's best players and largest salaries. Talented hockey players who don't make it to the NHL take their skills elsewhere, plying their trade in domestic minor leagues or foreign pro leagues around the globe.
Average NHL Player Salaries
The average salary for NHL players in the 2010-2011 season registered about £1.6 million, according to Forbes magazine. The league's minimum player salary for this season was £325,000 a year. This figure was scheduled to increase to £341,250 for the 2011-2012 season. The NHL imposes team salary caps. The 2010-2011 salary cap topped off at £38.6 million per team. The NHL also has a player salary cap that stipulates that a single player's annual salary cannot exceed 20 per cent of the overall team salary cap. This means that the maximum annual salary allowed for a single player under the £38.6 million team cap would be approximately £7.7 million.
Elite NHL Player Salaries
A handful of elite NHL players boast salaries near the league maximum. The highest-paid players tend to be goalscoring forwards. Tampa Bay Lightning centre Vincent Lecavalier's £6 million salary ranked as the highest in the NHL for the 2010-2011 season, according to Forbes. Rising stars Sidney Crosby of the Pittsburgh Penguins and Alexander Ovechkin of the Washington Capitals commanded comparable salaries for the 2010-2011 season, hauling in £5 million apiece. Ten players in all enjoyed salaries of more than £5 million for this season. In addition to massive salaries, famous players also make lots of money with lucrative endorsement deals. For instance, Sidney Crosby held the most endorsements of any NHL player in 2010, earning more than £0.6 million from his Reebok endorsements alone.
Minor League Player Salaries
Some promising hockey players are not quite polished enough to make it to the NHL. Numerous minor leagues exist throughout North America, offering these developmental players a chance to earn a modest living and enhance their skills in the hopes of getting called up to the NHL some day. The American Hockey League, or AHL, ranks as the continent's top minor league, consisting of 30 professional teams based in the United States and Canada. The AHL provided minimum salaries of £24,050 for the 2010-2011 season, according to the Professional Hockey Players' Association. Some of the better players in the AHL make slightly more, while players in lower tier minor leagues make significantly less.
Pro Player Salaries Abroad
Hockey has emerged as a global sport, gaining popularity in myriad countries outside of North America. European leagues like the Russian Superleague, the Czech Extraleague and the Swedish Elite Series generally have the best players and biggest salaries outside of the NHL. Pro hockey pay scales differ drastically in Europe and around the world. A player's earnings will ultimately depend on the country, the league and the team where he ends up.