NHL vs AHL: Difference and Comparison

Ice hockey is a team sport played in an ice rink where one team opposes another. The players aim to score more goals with the puck. The game has been 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 in that ice hockey teams can compete. The players in the NHL and AHL are the most skilled in their sports fields.

The NHL players are 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.

Key Takeaways

  1. NHL is the top professional ice hockey league in North America, while AHL is the primary developmental league for the NHL.
  2. NHL has more teams, higher salaries, and a higher level of competition than the AHL, which is a minor league.
  3. NHL players are older, more experienced, and more skilled than AHL players, who are younger and less experienced.


NHL is the top-level professional ice hockey league in North America, consisting of 32 teams. The league is widely considered to be the premier professional ice hockey league in the world. The AHL is a professional ice hockey league that serves as a developmental league for the NHL. The league consists of 31 teams. It is designed to help young players develop their skills and prepare for the NHL.


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

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Comparison Table

Parameters of ComparisonNHLAHL
Full-FormNHL stands for ‘National Hockey League.’AHL stands for ‘American Hockey League.’
Team FormationNational Hockey League teams can trade and add players to their teams 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 superior to 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 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 in New York. When the NHA (National Hockey Association) was suspended, it was replaced by the NHL.

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

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

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More teams play in the AHL than in 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 that have played at least four full seasons at a time. 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 of around 36,500 dollars. Parent clubs of teams in the AHL are responsible for training and hiring other staff.


Main Differences Between NHL and AHL

  1. NHL is the National Hockey League which are teams playing in the country of America. At the same time, 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 superior to 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.
  1. https://www.cambridge.org/core/journals/canadian-journal-of-neurological-sciences/article/national-hockey-league-reported-concussions-198687-to-200102/609569F0D10670D629FACD59DCEB1BD2 

Last Updated : 13 July, 2023

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23 thoughts on “NHL vs AHL: Difference and Comparison”

  1. I don’t see the appeal in NHL games, I think AHL players are just as skilled and the games are just as entertaining.

    • Respectfully disagree, Dennis. The NHL sets the standard for ice hockey, and it’s clear that their players are of a higher caliber.

  2. The NHL’s Stanley Cup is truly an iconic prize, it represents the pinnacle of achievement in professional ice hockey.

  3. The distinction in player experiences and wages is striking, it’s evident how the NHL and AHL differ significantly.

  4. I didn’t realize the extent of the differences between NHL and AHL players, very interesting to learn about.

  5. Ice hockey is such an exciting and action-packed sport! I love watching NHL games, the level of competition is unmatched by the AHL.

  6. I appreciate the detailed comparison between the NHL and AHL, it really helps to understand the differences in these two leagues.


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