What Does AHL Stand For In Hockey?

AHL in hockey stands for American Hockey league, the AHL is the main developmental league of the NHL. This means players drafted to NHL teams will play in the AHL as they hone their skills and get ready for the next level.

Each NHL team is affiliated with a team in the AHL some NHL teams will share an AFL affiliate with another NHL team. Players that are not at the level to play in the NHL will play for their team’s AHL affiliate.

There is a total of thirty-one teams in the American Hockey League with twenty-six in the United States and five in Canada.


Two leagues that often leaves fans confused due to their similarities are the AHL and ECHL. The AHL is the American hockey league and the ECHL is the east coast hockey league.

The difference between the AHL and ECHL is that the ECHL is one tier below the AHL. The AHL is directly below the NHL with players going directly from the AHL to the national hockey league. The ECHL will have their best players called up to the AHL as it is one tier higher.

In other words, the American Hockey League is a direct feeder league to the NHL while the ECHL is a mid-level professional league one step below.

An AHL roster is made up of players recently drafted by the team, veterans that played a few seasons in the NHL and a few players that failed to reach the level of NHL quality.

The ECHL will have the odd player that makes his way to the NHL but most of the players will not reach this point in their career. Instead many of these players have hopes of making teams in higher quality European leagues such as the Swedish Hockey League or KHL.


The differences between the AHL versus the NHL is another question that many fans have.

The AHL and NHL are different because the NHL is the highest level of hockey in the world while the AHL is one tier below it.

In North America, the number one hockey league by far is the National hockey league. When these teams draft players they are often not ready to enter the league right away.

Most players are drafted at eighteen or nineteen years of age meaning they are usually not ready to play the highest level of hockey with grown men.

In order to prepare them for the jump to the NHL, these players will play on an American Hockey League affiliate. The AHL allows these players to gain strength and experience all while playing against experienced professionals in a highly competitive league.

Once these players reach the level to play at the NHL they will be called up. This makes this league a feeder league for the NHL. Despite being a feeder league the American Hockey League is the second-best hockey league in North America.

Many fans and players in this league enjoy it for the quality of hockey they provide instead of thinking about this league simply as a feeder to the NHL.

If you want to learn more hockey terminology check out our guide to understanding terms like waffleboarded or chiclets.

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