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Top 10 Hockey Leagues In The World Ranked

By Kapil Sapkota / 5 January 2024 04:34 AM

Source : reddit

The top ice hockey leagues in the world are widely recognized based on the level of competition, talent, and overall prestige.

Hockey leagues play a crucial role in the development, promotion, and sustainability of ice hockey as a sport. Their importance extends beyond just providing a platform for competitive play.

Leagues serve as vital breeding grounds for developing young talent. They provide a structured environment where players can hone their skills, gain experience, and progress through various levels of competition.

The competitive nature of leagues enhances the entertainment value for fans, creating excitement and rivalries that captivate audiences.

1. National Hockey League (NHL) - North America

The National Hockey League (NHL) is a professional ice hockey league considered the premier and most prestigious in the world. It was founded on November 26, 1917, in Montreal, Canada.

Currently, the NHL consists of 32 teams, with 24 teams based in the United States and 8 teams in Canada.

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It is divided into the Eastern and Western Conferences further segregated into two divisions.

The league's championship trophy is the Stanley Cup, one of the oldest and most prestigious trophies in professional sports.

The regular season typically consists of 82 games for each team. The top teams from each division qualify for the playoffs, culminating in the Stanley Cup Finals.

The NHL has produced legendary players and personalities who have left a lasting impact on the sport. Iconic figures in the league's history include Wayne Gretzky, Mario Lemieux, Bobby Orr, and many others.

Playing a central role in the world of ice hockey, the league has set the standard for professional competition and showcased the sport's skill and excitement at the highest level.

2. Kontinental Hockey League (KHL) - Eurasia

The Kontinental Hockey League (KHL) is a professional ice hockey league based in Eurasia. The league was established in 2008 as the successor to the Russian Superleague.

The KHL is a multinational league with teams primarily from Russia. It also includes teams from other countries including Belarus, China, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Finland, Kazakhstan, Latvia, and Slovakia.

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The league is divided into two conferences and each conference is further divided into divisions. The teams compete for playoff spots within their respective conferences.

The KHL's championship trophy is the Gagarin Cup, named after Yuri Gagarin.

The regular season typically consists of each team playing a set number of games. The top teams from each conference qualify for the playoffs.

Widely regarded as one of the top professional hockey leagues outside of North America, the KHL has gained prominence for its competitive play and international representation.

3. Swedish Hockey League (SHL) - Sweden

The Swedish Hockey League (SHL), known as Svenska Hockeyligan in Swedish, is the top professional ice hockey league in Sweden. 

Founded in 1922, the SHL has undergone several name changes throughout its history before adopting the current name.

Source : shl

The league typically consists of 14 teams. Teams compete in a round-robin format during the regular season. Standings at the regular season determine which teams qualify for the playoffs.

The playoffs culminate in the SHL Finals, where the two remaining teams compete for the championship. The Le Mat Trophy is awarded to the SHL champions, the oldest trophy in Swedish sports.

Ice hockey, and the SHL in particular, holds significant cultural importance in Sweden. The league's games attract passionate fan bases, and the sport is deeply ingrained in the country's winter sports culture.

4. Finnish Liiga - Finland

The Finnish Liiga, often referred to as "Liiga," is the top professional ice hockey league in Finland founded in 1975.

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The league typically consists of 15 teams who compete in a round-robin format during the regular season. The regular-season standings determine which teams qualify for the playoffs.

The playoffs consist of elimination rounds leading to the crowning of the league champion. The Kanada-malja is awarded to the Liiga champions.

Liiga and Mestis, the second-tier league, share a promotion and relegation system.

Finland places a great deal of cultural significance on ice hockey, and Liiga in particular. The nation's sports culture is strongly rooted in hockey, and the league's games draw fervent fan bases.

Notable athletes who have excelled both nationally and internationally have come from Liiga.

5. Czech Extraliga - Czech Republic

The best professional ice hockey league in the Czech Republic is called the Czech Extraliga. It was established in 1993 as a result of Czechoslovakia's peaceful disintegration.

The league typically consists of 14 teams, which compete against each other in a regular season in a round-robin format to reach the subsequent playoffs.

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At the end of the season, the top 12 teams qualify for post-season competition to cement their name as the ultimate Champions.

There is often a system of promotion and relegation between the Czech Extraliga and the second-tier league, the 1. Liga.

Notable Czech players, such as Jaromir Jagr, began their careers in the Extraliga before making a mark in the NHL and other prestigious leagues.

6. Swiss National League (NL) - Switzerland

The National League (NL), a top professional ice hockey league established in 1938, has grown to become one of the leading ice hockey leagues in Europe.

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The league typically consists of 14 teams, each competing in a regular season. The season is followed by playoffs, where the top teams compete for the championship title.

Ice hockey enjoys significant popularity in Switzerland, and National League games attract passionate fans. HC Davos holds the record for being the most successful team in the NL league, having won 31 championship titles.

Swiss teams and players from the National League have represented Switzerland in various international competitions, including the IIHF World Championships and the Winter Olympics.

7. Deutsche Eishockey Liga (DEL) - Germany

The Deutsche Eishockey Liga was founded in 1994 as a successor to the Oberliga, becoming the top tier of professional ice hockey in Germany.

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The DEL usually has 14 teams, and the season is made up of a regular season followed by playoffs to decide the champion. The league shares a promotion and relegation system with the DEL2, the second-tier league.

German teams from the DEL have competed internationally in several events, including the Winter Olympics and the IIHF World Championships, as have players who have grown up in the league.

The Deutsche Eishockey Liga continues to be a driving force in German ice hockey, providing a high level of competition and entertainment for fans.

8. American Hockey League (AHL) - North America

The American Hockey League (AHL) is a professional ice hockey league that serves as the primary developmental league for the NHL.

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In 1936, the league was established. The league has been instrumental in nurturing emerging talent throughout the years, helping players bridge the gap to the top professional hockey league.

The league consists of 31 teams, each affiliated with an NHL team. The league is divided into two conferences (Eastern and Western) and further segmented into divisions.

AHL teams are spread across North America, with franchises in both the United States and Canada. 

The winner is crowned The AHL's championship trophy, known as the Calder Cup, named after Frank Calder, the first president of the NHL.

9. Slovak Extraliga - Slovakia

The Slovak Extraliga was established in 1993 and has since become the pinnacle of professional ice hockey in Slovakia. It stands as a cornerstone of ice hockey in Slovakia, providing a high level of competition.

There are usually 12 teams in the Extraliga. Every team plays 50 games in a round-robin format during the regular season.

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The four clubs who finished seventh through tenth in the regular season square off in a best-of-five series, or "play-in," beginning with the 2018–19 campaign, in an attempt to claim the final two playoff positions. The winners of the two best-of-five series take the two remaining playoff spots.

Slovak players from the Extraliga have represented the country in various international competitions, including the IIHF World Championships and the Winter Olympics.

10. Austrian ICE Hockey League (ICEHL) - Austria

The Austrian ICE Hockey League (ICEHL) is the top professional ice hockey league known as the Erste Bank Eishockey Liga (EBEL), established in 1923.

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Usually, teams from Austria and nearby nations compete in the ICEHL. Up to 2005–06, the league was made up entirely of Austrian clubs. The league has now expanded to include clubs from other nations.

The regular season runs from September to March, with the playoffs culminating in the awarding of the Austrian Champion title in April. EC KAC has collected the most ICEHL championship trophy, winning it 31 times.

Teams from the ICEHL participate in the IIHF's annual Champions Hockey League (CHL), competing for the European Trophy.

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