Difference Between NHL and AHL

Ice hockey is a team sport played in an ice rink where one team opposes the other. The aim of the players is to score more goals with the puck. The game is being played all around the world since the 1900s. It is especially very popular in Canada and the United States of America.

The National Hockey League (NHL) and the American Hockey League (AHL) are two leagues that ice hockey teams can compete in. The players in the NHL and AHL are the most skilled players in the field of their sports.

The NHL players even more so than the AHL players. The Stanley Cup awarded at the end of the National Hockey League is considered very prestigious and is sought out by all the teams.


The main difference between the National Hockey League and the American Hockey League is that the AHL provides development of players for the NHL. Hence NHL is more superior to AHL in terms of player skills and experience.


There are more teams playing in the American Hockey League than the National Hockey League as it accepts only the best. NHL games are more thoroughly planned than AHL games.

Comparison Table Between NHL and AHL

Parameters of ComparisonNHLAHL
Full-FormNHL stands for ‘National Hockey League’.AHL stands for ‘American Hockey League’.
Team FormationNational Hockey League teams are able to trade and add players to their teams as per their requirements.American Hockey League teams do not have the luxury of trading or adding players. The NHL clubs decide the teams for the AHL.
SuperiorityNHL comes at a lower level of superiority than AHL.AHL is more superior than the NHL.
Wages of PlayersNHL players get fewer wages than AHL players.AHL players get higher wages than NHL players.
Experience of PlayersNHL players are less experienced and have comparatively fewer skills.AHL players are more skilled and experienced.

What is NHL?

Nation Hockey League is a professional ice hockey league in North America. It currently has 31 teams consisting of teams from the United States as well as Canada.

Ice Hockey is considered as one of the major sports in the US and Canada. Whoever wins the National Hockey League is awarded the Stanley Cup. 

The NHL was founded in 1917 in Montreal, Canada but its headquarters are located in New York. When the NHA (National Hockey Association) was suspended, it was replaced by the NHL.

Initially, the National Hockey League was only comprised of 4 teams from Canada. When the Boston Bruins joined the league in 1924, the United States also became a part of the National Hockey League. The newest member of the league (32nd team) will become a part of the league in 2021.

The Stanley Cup is considered to be one of the most important sport championships in sports by the  International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF). The NFL is the fifth most wealthiest professional sport by revenue.

The players get around 5,00,000 dollars as their salaries. The coaches, trainers and other staff for the team are hired by the NHL itself, not the affiliated clubs.


What is AHL?

The American Hockey League is an ice hockey league that develops and seasons players for the National Hockey League. There are 27 American teams in the AHL and 4 Canadian teams.

More teams play in the AHL than the NHL. American Hockey League was founded in 1936 and is based in Canada and the United States.

The minimum age requirement for a player in the American Hockey League is 18 years. The AHL only allows five skaters at a time that have played at least four full seasons. They are also known for their practice squad contracts. Only the teams that qualify in AHL can play in the NHL.

The winner of the AHL is awarded the Calder Cup. The best players from AHL get chosen for the NHL. The players from the American Hockey League have salaries around 36,500 dollars. Parent clubs of teams in the AHL are responsible for the training and hiring of other staff.


Main Differences Between NHL and AHL

  1. NHL is the National Hockey League which are teams playing among the country of America. While AHL on the other hand is the American Hockey League which plays international games.
  2. National Hockey League goes on to choose its best players that form the American Hockey League team.
  3. The American Hockey League team is more superior than the NHL’s team.
  4. AHL players earn more salary than NHL players.
  5. American Hockey League players are more skilled and experienced than National Hockey League players.


Ice Hockey is most popular in colder regions like Canada, Europe, Russia and America where ick rinks are easily available. The game is played at college levels, state levels, national levels as well as international levels. If not professionally, many people also play it just for fun. 

The American Hockey League is considered as the fighting ground for the teams to get to the nationals. It is made up of several parent clubs that fund the teams with all their necessary equipment, training, coaches, other staff and also pay their salaries.

The parent clubs of the teams decide the players they want to keep and what contracts they sign.

The National Hockey League is independent of the American Hockey League. It is a nonprofit organisation and is responsible for providing all the necessities to the players including their salaries.

Even if the teams are privately owned, the NHL is responsible for their well-being and funding. The development of the teams is given the highest priority and only provides the best coaches and training for it.


  1. https://www.cambridge.org/core/journals/canadian-journal-of-neurological-sciences/article/national-hockey-league-reported-concussions-198687-to-200102/609569F0D10670D629FACD59DCEB1BD2 
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