Average Salary for NHL Players (Plus 5 Other NHL Jobs)

Updated February 3, 2023

The National Hockey League (NHL) average salary for players in its league is often in the millions, but salaries vary by skill level. This variance in skill level separates the top-paid players from the players who earn near the league minimum required salary. Exploring the salaries for hockey players and other jobs in the NHL can help you determine if pursuing a career within this organization can help you reach your professional goals.

In this article, we share the average salary for hockey players in the NHL, which players make the most and what the minimum salary is, explain how to pursue a job as an NHL player and list other jobs you can consider within the organization.

What is the average salary for an NHL player?

The average salary for an NHL player is about $2.69 million as of the 2019-20 season, but that can vary greatly across individual players. This is higher than the national average for all athletes and sports competitors, which is $77,300 per year according to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). This difference is because of the popularity and profitability of the NHL and its players, much like in the National Football League (NFL), National Basketball Association (NBA) and Major League Baseball (MLB).

Related: 14 Jobs That Can Make You a Millionaire

What do the highest-paid NHL players make?

The NHL and the NHL Players' Association (NHLPA) regularly negotiate a collective bargaining agreement (CBA) that establishes the salary cap for all teams for upcoming seasons. In July 2020, the NHL and NHLPA ratified the current CBA and extended it through 2026. Changes included setting a salary cap of $81.5 million until the NHL reached a specific revenue threshold. As of the 2022-23 season, the salary cap for all teams remains at $81.5 million. 

Although all teams have the same salary cap, players have contracts for different amounts based on factors like points per game and average time spent on the ice. By adding a player's contract amount and signing bonus and dividing the total by the number of years on their contract, you can find their average annual value (AAV). According to Spotrac, the players with the highest approximate AAVs for the 2022-23 season are:

  • Connor McDavid (Edmonton Oilers): $12.5 million

  • Artemi Panarin (New York Rangers): $11.643 million

  • Auston Matthews (Toronto Maple Leafs: $11.64 million

  • Erik Karlsson (San Jose Sharks): $11.5 million

  • Leon Draisaitl (Edmonton Oilers): $11.3 million

Related: 29 Careers in Sports (With Duties and Salaries)

What is the minimum salary in the NHL?

As of the 2022-23 season, the minimum salary for hockey players in the NHL is $750,000 per year. Players who earn the minimum salary rarely spend as much time on the ice as higher-paying players, but they're still valuable members of their teams. The physical nature of a professional athlete's job and the risk of injury typically lead players to retire much earlier than professionals in other industries. Providing players with a lucrative minimum salary allows them to spend fewer years working while still earning a living.

Related: 25 Dangerous Jobs That Pay $45,000 or More

How to become an NHL player

The NHL is a selective organization that recruits only the highest-performing athletes who pursue careers as professional hockey players. Here are some steps you can take that may help you earn a spot on an NHL team:

Start playing hockey early

Most of the players in the NHL today began playing hockey at a young age. Particularly in northern areas of the U.S., hockey leagues for children are popular. These leagues teach kids the basics of the game and the teamwork and communication skills that are essential for the sport. While it's not a necessity, playing hockey as a child can give you an advantage for playing professionally as an adult.

Play hockey in high school or at a hockey academy

High school hockey players typically expand on what they learned about the game as a child to further develop their skills. For instance, they may learn more complicated playing techniques, workouts and training regimens that allow them to advance beyond basic abilities. Performing well in high school can also help you capture the attention of college recruiters who identify high school athletes that may perform well at the college level. The NHL sometimes drafts some of the best high school players before they enter college.

Related: 15 Pieces of Career Advice for High School Graduates

Join a college hockey team or junior league

Many students seek positions on high-ranking National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Division I teams, but it's possible for a hockey player to excel at a smaller school. College hockey teams offer a chance for hardworking and talented players to perform at a national level. These players learn even more about the sport and may receive adequate experience and training to play at a professional level by the end of their collegiate career. Players who excel in college sometimes enter the NHL draft immediately after graduating.

In Canada, players can also pursue positions on a major junior league team starting at age 16. The Canadian Hockey League (CHL) consists of the Ontario Hockey League (OHL), Quebec Major Junior Hockey League (QMJHL) and the Western Hockey League (WHL). Each of these regional leagues scouts players to play on their teams. These teams draft players onto active rosters or onto protected lists, which allow teams to claim the draft rights to players who are still developing their skills in the minor leagues. 

Related: How To Write a Student Athlete Resume (With Example)

Get drafted into the NHL

Whether it's immediately after college or after a few years in the minor leagues, players who work hard and prove themselves on the ice may have a chance of earning a place in the NHL. The NHL has a draft every year, and teams select players internationally or within the U.S. from high schools, colleges and junior leagues. If you don't get drafted right away, you can continue playing on a junior or college team, which allows you to improve your skills and prepare for the next draft.

Related: 15 Highest-Paying Jobs in Sports

Enter a minor league on a farm team

The two primary minor hockey leagues, also known as farm leagues, in the U.S. are the American Hockey League (AHL) and ECHL, formerly the East Coast Hockey League. For some players, minor leagues have many advantages, like earning a yearly salary and honing their skills to make them more appealing and valuable to NHL teams. NHL teams often promote talent from minor leagues regularly, sometimes even in the middle of a season if the teams need a player with certain strengths or the coaches want to change their roster.

Earn a promotion to the NHL

For hockey players in the AHL and ECHL, the final step in becoming an NHL player is a promotion to the top league. You can accomplish this by impressing both minor league coaches and NHL scouts who believe you're ready to play in the NHL. There are a number of factors that determine whether someone is ready for the NHL, including skill level, physicality, mental and physical endurance and other traits.

Related: How To Write a Professional Hockey Resume (With Examples)

5 jobs in the NHL

Athletes are just one type of employee the NHL hires. If you're interested in pursuing a career that allows you to support NHL teams in other ways, here are some job options you might consider. For the most up-to-date salary information from Indeed, visit indeed.com/salaries.

1. Zamboni driver

National average salary: $39,949 per year

Primary duties: A Zamboni driver is a maintenance professional who assists NHL teams by resurfacing the ice. They operate Zambonis, which are specialized machines that scrape and clean the ice, before, during and after games to keep the rink smooth and safe for players. Zamboni drivers typically receive on-the-job training to learn to use the machine effectively.

2. Event manager

National average salary: $55,854 per year

Primary duties: An event manager is a service and hospitality professional who organizes, plans and executes special events for organizations. Event managers who work for the NHL usually host promotional events for specific teams or corporate events for NHL team employees. They may hire and manage event planning staff, collaborate with venues and vendors to plan events and maintain documentation to ensure they stay within the team's budget.

3. Social media manager

National average salary: $56,799 per year

Primary duties: A social media manager is a marketing professional who promotes an organization and its products or services on its social media platforms. In the NHL, these professionals often use social media to share updates with fans, advertise team events and host contests for game tickets or merchandise. Social media managers also interact with page visitors through comments and messages, which can help the team maintain fan loyalty.

4. Account executive

National average salary: $68,728 per year

Primary duties: An account executive is a business and sales professional who generates sales by forming and maintaining customer relationships. Account executives for NHL teams may communicate with customers to answer their questions, resolve their concerns about team-related purchases and encourage them to buy product or event upgrades. Teams often hire these professionals to manage relationships with their season ticket holders.

Read more: Learn About Being an Account Executive

5. Director of communications

National average salary: $72,399 per year

Primary duties: A director of communications is a public relations and communications professional who serves as the primary contact for media outlets. Those who work for NHL teams may develop partnerships with media companies, arrange media appearances and game coverage and select coverage for social media professionals and web developers to share on team platforms. A director of communications manages their department and sometimes others, such as marketing or advertising.

Please note that none of the companies mentioned in this article are affiliated with Indeed.

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