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Ice Hockey Around the World

Ice hockey is the official national winter sport of Canada, as well as the most popular winter sport in the United States, Belarus, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Finland, Latvia, Russia, Slovakia, Sweden, and Switzerland. Due to the sport’s popularity, there are numerous professional leagues, junior tournaments, and international competitions throughout the world.

Professional Ice Hockey Leagues

While the National Hockey League (NHL) is the most well known and considered the highest level for men’s professional ice hockey, there are many professional leagues across the globe.

Alexander Romanov CSKA Moscow
Alexander Romanov, CSKA Moscow, 2018-19 KHL Regular Season (Photo by Sergei SavostyanovTASS via Getty Images)

Below are the leagues based on average attendance for the 2018-19 seasons

LeagueCountryNotesAverage Attendance
National Hockey League (NHL) Canada (7 teams)
 United States (25 teams)
32 teams in 2021–22 season17,406
National League (NL)  Switzerland6,949
Kontinental Hockey League (KHL) Russia (19 teams)
 Belarus (1 team)
 China (1 team)
 Finland (1 team)
 Kazakhstan (1 team)
 Latvia (1 team)
Successor to Russian Superleague and Soviet Championship League6,397
Deutsche Eishockey Liga (DEL) Germany6,215
Swedish Hockey League (SHL) SwedenKnown as Elitserien until 20135,936
American Hockey League (AHL) United States (27 teams)
 Canada (4 teams)
Developmental league for NHL5,672
Czech Extraliga Czech RepublicFormed from the split of the Czechoslovak First Ice Hockey League5,401
ECHL United States (25 teams)
 Canada (2 teams)
Western Hockey League (WHL) Canada (17 teams)
 United States (5 teams)
Junior league4,295
Liiga FinlandOriginally SM-sarja from 1928 to 1975. Known as SM-Liiga from 1975 to 20134,232
Ontario Hockey League (OHL) Canada (17 teams)
 United States (3 teams)
Junior league3,853
Champions Hockey League EuropeEurope-wide championship tournament league. Successor to European Trophy and Champions Hockey League3,397
NCAA Men’s Division I Ice Hockey Tournament United StatesAmateur intercollegiate competition3,281
Quebec Major Junior Hockey League (QMJHL) CanadaJunior league3,271
Southern Professional Hockey League United States3,116
Austrian Hockey League Austria (8 teams)
 Hungary (1 team)
 Czech Republic (1 team)
 Italy (1 team)
 Croatia (1 team)
Elite Ice Hockey League United KingdomTeams in all of the home nations: England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland2,850
HockeyAllsvenskan SwedenSecond division of Sweden2,713
DEL2 GermanySecond division of Germany2,511
United States Hockey League (USHL) United StatesAmateur junior league2,367
Swiss League  SwitzerlandSecond division of Switzerland1,845
GET-ligaen Norway1,827
Supreme Hockey League (VHL) Russia (24 teams)
 Kazakhstan (2 teams)
 China (2 teams)
Second division of Russia and partial development league for the KHL1,766
Ligue Magnus France1,716
WSM Liga Czech RepublicSecond division of Czechia1,674
Slovak Extraliga Slovakia  (11 teams)
 Hungary (2 teams)
Formed from the split of the Czechoslovak First Ice Hockey League1,663
Federal Prospects Hockey League United States1,546
Metal Ligaen Denmark1,525
Latvian Hockey Higher League Latvia (6 teams)1,354
Asia League Japan (4 teams)
 South Korea (3 teams)
 Russia (1 team)
 China (1 team)
National Women’s Hockey League (NWHL) United States (5 teams)
 Canada (1 team)
Formed in 2015954
BeNe League Netherlands (10 teams)
 Belgium (6 teams)
Formed in 2015 with teams from Dutch Eredivisie and Belgian Hockey League784
Mestis FinlandSuccessor to I-Divisioona, Second division of Finland762
Polska Hokej Liga Poland751
Alps Hockey League Austria (7 teams)
 Italy (8 teams)
 Slovenia (2 teams)
Formed in 2016 with the merger of Italy’s Serie A and the joint Austrian–Slovenian Inter-National League734
Belarusian Extraleague Belarus717
Erste Liga Hungary (6 teams)
 Romania (2 teams)
 Austria (1 team)
Swedish Women’s Hockey League SwedenFormed in 2007 and known as Riksserien until 2016234

International League News

International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF)

The IIHF is the formal governing body for the ice hockey federations in 76 countries. They are responsible for managing international tournaments and maintaining the IIHF World Rankings.

Team Canada Gold Medal 2023 World Junior Championship
Team Canada poses with their gold medals after defeating Team Czechia 3-2 in overtime at the 2023 IIHF World Junior Championship (Photo by Minas Panagiotakis/Getty Images)

Current Title Holders

TournamentWorld ChampionYear
Men Finland2022
Men’s World Junior Canada2023
Men’s U-18 Sweden2022
Women Canada2022
Women’s U-18 Canada2022

Men’s World Championship

Women’s World Championship

World Junior Hockey Championship

Czech Republic Overtime WJC
Czech Republic players celebrate their overtime win during World Junior Hockey Championship action in Vancouver, on Wednesday December 26, 2018. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck)

Men’s U-18 World Championship

Olympic Ice Hockey

Men’s Tournament

1 Canada94316
2 United States 28111
T3 Soviet Union 7119
T3 Sweden2349
5 Czechoslovakia0448
6 Finland0246
T7 Czech Republic1012
T7 Great Britain1012
T7 Germany0112
T7 Russia0112
T7 Switzerland0022
T12 Olympic Athletes from Russia1001
T12 Unified Team1001
T12 West Germany0011
Totals (14 Nations)24242472
1980 Olympic Team USA
LAKE PLACID, NY – FEBRUARY 22: Team USA celebrates after defeating the Soviet Union to advance to the Gold Medal game during the 1980 Olympic Games on February 22, 1980 at the Olympic Center in Lake Placid, New York. (Photo by B Bennett/Getty Images)

Women’s Tournament

T1 Canada4206
T1 United States 2316
3 Finland0033
4 Sweden0112
5 Switzerland0011
Totals (5 Nations)66618
Four Olympic women shared the ice for the skills competition … and stole the show (Zeke – THW)