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What it Takes to Become a Pro Hockey Player


Becoming a Professional Hockey Player your Fans can Bet On

By Cliff Gill

Ice hockey is a global sport, with major interest in North America, Europe, and Asia. Potential players looking to sign up with professional sides have lots of options, and salaries vary from a fairly average wage to millions per year. If you’re looking to break into the pro side of things, this article should help give you a heads up on what you might expect.


I’m going to start off with a general skill which is useful whatever walk of life an individual is doing down: be polite and reliable. Sometimes, particularly early in your career, there may not be much separating you from rivals. Someone who is easy to get along with and turns up for training consistently on time will have the edge over someone who is just as talented on the ice, but who views training and people skills as chores to be tolerated rather than an opportunity to improve.

Photo by Matthew Fournier on Unsplash

As a prerequisite to becoming professional an individual’s got to be comfortable on the ice. This means both in terms of skating easily, and in terms of having a good handle on hockey skills specifically. Nobody’s going to expect you to be the best player in the world on day one, if you get into a professional side, but the better you are, the higher the chance of getting signed up.

For many this will start during school, whether with school-sanctioned sports or by playing hockey in your free time. Getting into the habit of playing and training (on the ice and in the gym) will stand you in good stead. In a competitive marketplace, skimping on the gym or trying to coast by can make the difference between success and failure.

Tip: Betting on the NHL

This might seem like a strange tip, but it goes without saying that anyone really interested in becoming a pro hockey player should have knowledge not just on their game of choice, but the players who make it so great. Similar to how boxers watch videos of their rivals before a fight, up and coming hockey players no doubt have intimate knowledge on how their favorite players perform - think back to legends Wayne Gretzky and Mario Lemieux, to current favorites Connor McDavid and Sidney Crosby. What makes them so great, and what can you learn from their skillset?

To make the learning process more enjoyable, many hockey enthusiasts enjoy betting on their favorite teams and players. While this is a way to make watching the games more enjoyable, by using your acute knowledge of ice hockey, you can try to successfully choose who will be the first and last goal scorer, and make money line bets, over/under wagers and so on. Canadians on the lookout for a new sportsbook or a Canadian online casino can visit this site’s homepage to find the top Canadian casinos online to play at. This includes finding sites with the best no deposit and match deposit bonuses.

Salary and Career Expectations

Before we talk numbers it’s important to remember that several factors have to come into play to achieve success. Natural talent always helps, as does dedication, and occasionally luck. Not every player is destined for the KHL or NHL, but working hard will certainly improve your chances.

Salaries vary quite significantly across the various leagues, which is no bad thing as it provides both opportunities for career progression and an easier time starting out. The Danish league is the Metal Ligaen, and although the salary is at the low end (€15,0000 to €35,000) it’s worth noting Danes often speak great English and the country has free schools which can help sweeten the deal.

Leagues in Switzerland, Sweden, Finland, Germany and elsewhere in Europe bridge the gap between this lower level and the high prizes on offer in the KHL. The majority of Europe’s leagues operate in the mid-tier salary. The Czech Republic’s Extraliga, for example, ranges from $30,000 USD up to $160,000 USD.

At the top end as far as Europe goes is Russia’s KHL, the Kontinental Hockey League (probably the world’s second best hockey division). Competition for places can be fierce and that’s no surprise because the salary potential ranges from $150,000 USD at the bottom end, all the way up to $3,000,000 USD (it’s worth noting different teams may pay in different currencies).

The NHL has even higher financial rewards on offer, with top players getting circa $10,000,000. The average salary in 2018-19 for the Los Angeles Kings was in excess of $3,500,000.

On top of the raw salary, age can make a difference. The KHL is a good option for players in their prime (mid-20s, early 30s), whilst Switzerland can be great for talented but older players who have families to raise. Early in your career you’ll just want to get ahead, but as things shift and you perhaps get married and have children to think about, that adds other factors to consider.

Because of the international nature of the various leagues, this can mean any given player will be based in numerous and significantly different places. Between Sweden and Norway there won’t be a staggering difference, but if you’re flitting between the Far East, Europe, and North America then customs will vary a lot. This can be an opportunity to expand your horizons, but may also require some adjustment.

Cultural Differences

There are many countries in the world where a professional ice hockey career can be developed. Obviously if you stay in Canada then the adjustment needed for cultural differences is zero, but as you go further afield there are a variety of changes you need to make to adapt to a new country and culture. Some of these might be jarring, but others might be surprisingly pleasant.

In the Far East (Japan, Korea, China) there’s an emphasis on precision, politeness, quiet and general good manners. Cash is used a lot, and all the public transport runs exactly to time. Being well-dressed is more important than in North America or Europe. Although the culture is distinctly different to the West, there shouldn’t be much difficulty fitting in.

In Scandinavia, winters and driving can be tricky. There’s a lot more smoking than in North America, and it can be easy to make errors on the road due to challenging conditions, so keep sharp. This isn’t only weather-related; in winter there can be very few hours of daylight so nocturnal driving is more commonplace. Prices vary a lot across Europe; in Scandinavia and Switzerland they can be very high. As with the Far East, tipping isn’t common or expected.

Retirement Options

Sooner or later, whether by choice or not, hockey players retire. As with athletes competing in other sports, there are a number of post-retirement options that can involve staying close to the game. Commentating and coaching are the two most obvious examples.

It’s important to consider the future as your career goes along. If things go perfectly, you should still set aside money in case injury or health problems caused by concussion or other misfortune comes along. That might sound a bit pessimistic but it really is a good idea to have one eye on the future (and this will also help you to enjoy the going while it’s good). If things are going okay but not great, keep your mind on potential career options after hockey. These considerations might also influence where you play the game later in your career.


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