If you clicked on this article, you probably want to know more about SPHL Hockey, right?
You’re in luck.
We’re going to cover everything for you from the level of play and fan attendance to just how much SPHL players actually make salary wise.
Let's get into it...
- Southern Professional Hockey League
- Is the SPHL affiliated with the NHL?
- What level of hockey is SPHL?
- Do SPHL players get paid?
- How many fans do SPHL hockey games get?
- How many SPHL teams are there?
Southern Professional Hockey League
The SPHL stands for the Southern Professional Hockey League.
The leagues teams are heavily located in the southeastern US with a number of teams now located in the midwest. That's where the original name derived from.
Formed in the mid 2000’s (2004 to be exact) with 9 teams, the semi professional hockey league sits just below the ECHL and above the FPHL hockey league.
Over the past decade, the skill level of the SPHL league has increased greatly.
Many years ago, you may find a mix of players with university (NCAA to ACHA) or decent junior hockey backgrounds.
Today, it’s common to look at any SPHL roster and find a solid lineup full of high end ex-NCAA, USports, and top junior players at all positions.
Roster spots are quite competitive for a number of reasons.
The ECHL which sits just above the SPHL has to carry a large number of younger contracted players from their NHL affiliates. This pushes a number of players down to the SP who would otherwise play in the coast.
Another reason is that with each passing year, more players have the desire to continue playing pro hockey (after college/juniors/etc).
With only a handful of clubs, there’s only so many roster spots available.
Due to this, heading over to play pro hockey in Europe becomes a great option for many players with the benefit of living abroad.
Is the SPHL affiliated with the NHL?
Although SPHL clubs don’t have direct affiliations with NHL clubs, the league has certainly helped players advance over the years.
It's not a stepping stone to "the show", but it can help players take a step or 2 in the right direction on the hockey ladder.
Last season alone, over 70 SPHL players were called up to higher leagues (primarily the ECHL) for game action during the season.
Fun fact: Scott Darling is the only player in SPHL history to reach the NHL (winning a cup with the Chicago Blackhawks).
What level of hockey is SPHL?
That’s a great question. Ones answer to this question will be subjective based on their level of hockey experience.
Let me explain…
If you are a beer leaguer and you stepped out onto the ice during an SPHL game, most every player on the ice would skate circles around/past you (okay, maybe not that token fighter).
On the other hand, if you’re coming down from the NHL/AHL/ECHL level and taking part in a SPHL hockey game, you’d notice the pace is slightly slower (more so on the subtle details/skill).
As you drop down each level at the pro ranks, you’ll see this across the board....even if it’s micro details from hockey IQ to timing on passes/shots.
Former players over the years have jokingly referred to the league with nicknames such as "The Sizzler" or the "Still Playing Hockey League", but don't let that fool you into thinking some random travel or high school player who hasn't played in years could've played here. They couldn't.
The level of hockey played in SPHL today is quite comparable to an NCAA or USports match.
Do SPHL players get paid?
Yes. On average, SPHL players will make a few hundred dollars per week + bonuses. High end players will make more than this. They’re expected to carry the load (point production, veteran leadership, and so on).
Note: since the SPHL has a weekly salary cap, there’s only so much money to divvy up. More money to one players leaves less for the remaining pool of funds (it’s a balance).
If you play in the minor leagues though, you’re in it for the hockey….whether it’s to extend your career a bit longer or to earn a call up.
An SPHL hockey salary won’t make you rich (financially), but you’re still able to get paid to play the game you love.
Teams also pay for player housing, transportation/gas, food, and so on throughout the season so expenses aren’t high.
Based on our experience having deep conversations with players over the years, those experiences in the minors (whether in N America or Europe) are experiences you’ll carry with you for the rest of your life.
How many fans do SPHL hockey games get?
The Huntsville Havoc have held the highest league attendance in the league averaging over 4,820 fans per home game in 2019-20 (source: point streak). This number has adjusted slightly, but it’s still quite high.
The rest of the leagues team attendance averages range from 3,727 (Knoxville Ice Bears) per game to the lowest at 1,867 (Macon Mayhem) during the regular season.
As you can see from these numbers, SPHL hockey teams draw quality crowds.
Based on the layout of a number of the arenas in the league, the atmosphere in the buildings can get quite loud.
How many SPHL teams are there?
The SPHL is currently comprised of 11 clubs.
Over the last several years, the league has added a number of new clubs.
Quite a number of clubs have come and gone since the leagues initial inception in 2004, but a few clubs such as the Knoxville Ice Bears and Huntsville Havoc are still remaining.
In closing, the SPHL has made solid strides collectively as a minor hockey league from increasing league attendance to the level of play improving with each passing year.
If you’re a player who’s motivated to continue playing pro hockey, don’t hesitate to reach out and contact us. Over the past decade, we’ve helped a wide spectrum of players from junior and ACHA players with lighter resumes to high end NCAA and pros with the goal to continue playing hockey across the pond in Europe.