The Definitive Guide

This is a complete guide on European Hockey Leagues.

In this comprehensive guide, you'll learn all about:

  • Leagues throughout each country
  • European Culture (on and off the ice)
  • Skill level across various leagues
  • Hockey League Salaries
  • Expectations (imports, conditions)
  • Atmosphere (fans, arenas, etc)
  • Playing Hockey in Europe
  • Much more

So if you want to learn all about pro hockey across Europe, you're guaranteed to gain a ton of value from this guide.

european hockey- the definitive guide


pro hockey leagues in europe

Chapter 1
European Hockey Countries

hockey culture in europe

Chapter 2
European Culture

pro hockey salaries in europe

Chapter 3
Hockey League Salaries

skill level of hockey in eu

Chapter 4
Skill Level

hockey expectations europe

Chapter 5

european hockey atmosphere

Chapter 6

playing hockey in europe

Bonus Chapter
Playing Hockey in Europe


European Hockey Countries

Let's get started by covering the wide range of European hockey leagues ranging from the north in Scandinavia all the way down south to the beautiful Mediterranean Sea.

There's a ton of countries and exciting leagues for us to cover...

Not all countries within the European Union have well established hockey federations, but the majority of them do.

Here in Chapter 1, we'll provide you with a high level overview as we go from one country to the next.

european hockey leagues- map view

What countries play professional hockey in Europe?

A few dozen countries throughout Europe have professional hockey leagues.

Within these countries, many have multiple leagues within each of them. A small number of the countries below lie just outside of Europe (ex: Russia), but it's important to include them since they're spoken of often in the European hockey realm.

As you scroll through the list of countries below, you'll get a solid sense on the various leagues within each country...

hockey in sweden
  • Swedish Hockey League
  • Allsvenskan
  • HockeyEttan (Division 1)
  • Division 2
  • Division 3 & 4
german hockey map
  • DEL
  • DEL2
  • Oberliga
  • Regionalliga
  • Germany5
finland map
  • Liiga
  • Mestis
  • Suomi Sarja
  • II divisioona
  • etc
france map
  • Ligue Magnus
  • France2 (Division 1)
  • France3 (Division 2)
  • France4
swiss hockey map
  • NLA
  • NLB
  • Oberliga
  • Swiss 1st league
czech map
Czech Republic
  • Czech Extraliga
  • Czech2 (Chance Liga)
  • Czech 3
norway hockey league map
  • GET Ligaen
  • Norway2 (1. divisjon)
hungary hockey map
  • Erste Liga
poland hockey map
  • Polish Hockey League (PHL)
  • Poland2
russia hockey map
  • KHL
  • VHL
  • Russia3
belarus map
  • Belarusian Extraleague
  • Belarus Vysshaya
ukraine map
  • UHL- Ukrainian Hockey League
united kingdom map outline
United Kingdom
  • EIHL (Elite Ice Hockey League)
  • NIHL
netherlands hockey league map
  • BeneLeague
  • Netherlands2
belgian pro hockey map
  • BeneLeague
  • Belgium2
austria map
  • EBEL
  • Alps Hockey League
slovenia map
  • Slovenia
  • IntHL (International Hockey League)
italy hockey map
  • Alps Hockey League
  • Italian Hockey League Serie A (Italy2)
spain map leagues
  • Liga Nacional De Hockey Hielo
  • Metal Ligaen
  • Denmark2
slovakia map
  • Tipsport League
  • Slovakia2
  • Latvian Higher Hockey League (Obtibet)
  • Meistriliiga
  • Erste Liga
  • Federatia Romana De Hochei Pe Gheata
Iceland (EEA country)
  • Icelandic Hockey League


European Culture

One of the biggest perks of playing hockey in Europe is experiencing a deep immersion into European Culture...

Some of the most popular cities that may come to mind are Paris, Prague, or Amsterdam. There's literally hundreds of beautiful cities (big and small) spread throughout the continent that have ice hockey teams. This means there are a ton of great places to play.

Countless cities across the European Union are steeped with rich architecture, art, history, language, & culinary traditions.

Here in Chapter 2, we'll explore some of that culture with you...

european culture

What's it like living in Europe day-to-day off the ice?

view of paris- europe


It doesn’t matter if you’ve been to Europe many times before (or it’s your first time).

The architecture and allure throughout European cities never seems to gets old.

Whether you’re passing a building that was architected 400+ years ago or walking down a charming cobblestone road alongside outdoor cafes, it’s quite an environment to be immersed in throughout the season.


In general, European hockey leagues have less strenuous game schedules than leagues in North America (ECHL, SPHL, etc).

This can allow you with the opportunity to travel at times during the year while playing abroad. Since many European countries are quite close together and travel within the EU (Schengen Zone) is open, you can move quite easily from one country to the next (e.g. France -> Germany or Sweden -> Norway).

We regularly have players each season who will drive to the Alps for a ski holiday or fly to the Mediterranean Sea when there’s a short national team break for a weekend in season.

Sounds pretty rough. Right?

european travel

With flights within Europe being relatively low, it’s quite compelling to take advantage of traveling.

Especially when you’re in such close proximity to noteworthy travel destinations such as Rome, Krakow, Berlin, Copenhagen, Vienna, and so on.

Traveling by train is another great option.

For many, the ability to travel on its own is strong enough reason to want to play hockey in Europe.


Europe is a melting pot of language.

Over two dozen official languages are spoken throughout Europe (with many dialects within them).

If you speak English though, you’re in luck...

do you speak english meme

The vast majority of Europeans can comfortably speak English. 

If you want to play in Europe as an import player, we always recommend that you try your best to learn the most common phrases used in the native language though (hello, how are you, goodbye, thanks, I’m lost, etc).


It show locals (your teammates, shop clerks, fans) that you’re putting forth an effort to learn their native language. They’ll appreciate that and be more likely to reciprocate. When you have just arrived, that’s quite helpful…

Often times, they’ll even respond to you in English that may sound just as good (if not better) than your own.

beautiful view of european city

A good rule of thumb to keep in mind: the further East you go in Europe, the less likely it will be that everyone you interact with speaks English. This is especially the case for people over 55+ years of age since many of them weren’t taught English in grade school during that period of time.

With that being said, you shouldn’t have trouble interacting with others throughout Europe.

If all else fails, smile. That’s universally understood by all.

Culinary Traditions in Europe

Depending on which region of Europe the hockey club is located, you’ll probably have the opportunity to try new and exciting cuisine that likely differs from your own. 

Most of us know that Italians are known for their pasta and Belgians love their frites (fries)...

european culinary traditions

But did you know that Swedes love Köttbullar (meatballs) and the Finns in Lapland enjoy Poronkäristys (sautéed Reindeer) as well?

Talk about an easy way to get yourself on Santa's naughty list.

Being that you’ll be surrounded by locals (teammates, coaching staff, fans), try to take advantage of this and embrace the immersion into a new culture. This includes their culinary traditions. 

Even if a certain food doesn’t appeal to you, give some foods a try. You’ll surprise yourself.

Worst case scenario, you try a food you don’t like.

Either way, it makes for a good story….

European Nightlife

nightlife in europe

In closing of Chapter 2, we couldn’t cover culture without mentioning nightlife in Europe if that’s something you’re interested in (and you’re responsibly of age).

Based on dozens upon dozens of conversations we’ve had with players of ours throughout Europe over the years, there’s no shortage of great bars/nightlife in most cities.

In general, drinking is more socially accepted at a younger age in Europe than in N America.

Why is this?

This is due in part to the higher legal drinking ages in the US (21 years old) & Canada (19 years old), but it also stems from there not being such a negative stigma built up around it growing up.

Nightlife traditions and choice of spirits vary greatly from one EU country to the next, but it’s well known that Europeans know how to have a good time.

In addition, instead of strict laws that enforce bars and restaurants to close at say midnight or 2 AM, many establishments across Europe are open all night (or until they decide to close).

Don’t be surprised if bars are open until the sun comes up. 

hangover the movie gif

This can be fun and tiring, but it’s important to remember that you are there to play hockey and perform well on the ice.

We’re not here to lecture you on that...we just mention it as a friendly reminder to pick your spots during the season and take part responsibly if you choose to. 

Enjoy it because those stories & memories can last a lifetime, both on/off the ice.

Now that you have a more well rounded outlook on the culture in Europe...let's talk cheddar ($) in Chapter 3....


Hockey League Salaries

One of the most common questions people ask regarding European hockey is what salaries players make.

Here in Chapter 3, we’ll give a brief overview on player salaries and conditions.

Having a grasp on this information in 2022 is essential...

hockey salaries in europe

Unless you’re playing in one of the highest leagues in Europe (KHL, NLA, SHL, etc), you’re likely not going to be rolling in dough...

With that being said, there are plenty of pro hockey leagues in Europe where guys are able to make a decent living. 

Even further through the lower to mid-level leagues, players can make similar amounts to the minor leagues back in N America, but they have the added perks of living abroad in a beautiful country and the ability to save more of their pay.


For a full breakdown of player salaries country by country, we cover that here in European Hockey Salaries.

Just as their are business professions where one accountant (or a lawyer) makes a ton of money while another in that same profession makes quite less, the same holds true for ice hockey.

Since European leagues range so much in skill level (we’ll cover this more in Chapter 4), it makes sense why hockey salaries range so widely from league to league.

A league such as SHL or NLA may only be seeking an NHL/AHL caliber player, but an Oberliga, Sweden Division 2, or Mestis hockey club may be seeking a slightly lower caliber player. Therefore, the salary is not as substantial.

Additional factors such as club sponsorships, TV deals, fan attendance, and so on all play a role in how much discretionary budget a club has at their disposal each season.

Keeping this in mind is important, whether you’re interested in knowing how much money you can make playing abroad yourself or you’re just curious to know what players make overseas in general.

Let’s move onto Chapter 4 -> Skill Level

Want to Play Hockey in Europe? click here


Skill Level

Throughout earlier chapters, we covered the wide variety of leagues spread across Europe and what it’s like to live there day to day...

Here in Chapter 4, we’re going to unpack the skill level needed to play in many of these hockey leagues.

Understanding this can help provide you with a more accurate idea on where it may (or may not) be a realistic fit for you to play.

skill level to play hockey overseas

Let’s talk about....skill level.

Since we specialize in helping place import players across the EU, we will base the skill levels in this guide off of what clubs expect in an import player (opposed to local players).

For example, a strong Swedish player in Allsvenskan may not be expected to be of ECHL caliber, but most all imports in that position will be.

It would be a bit tedious to go league by league again.

We will instead place hockey leagues into various groupings so that you can best grasp the level of play from a bird’s eye view.

Although we know the skill level across leagues well, it’s important to note here that certain clubs within leagues may have more or less requirements in the caliber of player they’ll consider signing…


khl hockey

After the NHL and AHL, the 5 leagues in this grouping below are considered by many to all be in the top 10 hockey leagues in the world.

The KHL has to sit at the very top of the list in terms of the best hockey league outside of North America.

We recently covered Russia's top league at great length (interviewing numerous players/coaches) in our KHL Ultimate Guide.

If you want to play in these premier leagues as an import player, clubs here are generally looking for players that have minimum AHL level experience (if not NHL). High end players coming out of the ECHL or NCAA Division 1 may sign here as well, but they’ll usually start out at a slightly lower professional tier if they are first year pros.

Before we move on to the next grouping, it’s worth mentioning that it’s tough to precisely compare a top league in one country to one in another skill wise each year...

Luckily, Champions Hockey League was created in 2014. Champions HL is a tournament played during the season where the top 32 clubs across respective countries in top-tier leagues play one another.

This tournament provides a quality representation of the skill level of various leagues within Europe vs one another.

The tournament round robin matches show the dominance that some leagues (e.g. SHL) possess, but it’s also shown us the improvement and strength of hockey in leagues such as the PHL (Polish Hockey League) in recent years. Seeing smaller hockey nations (Poland, Slovenia) compete with more established ones is not only refreshing to see, but it also gives encouragement to younger players in these regions that they can one day compete at a high level as well.

Now that we’ve mentioned this, let’s move onto the next main grouping of hockey leagues in Europe…

Czech Extraliga, Tipsport League, EBEL, Allsvenskan, DEL2, EIHL

Much like the top grouping, many teams in this larger grouping of leagues are seeking AHL/ECHL caliber foreign players or top-tier university graduates. Since this grouping includes a few additional leagues, the skill level and style of play varies quite a bit. 

The EIHL for example is known for being quite a physical and tough league with many experienced North Americans throughout.

You’ll find imports who’ve had a few cups of coffee in the NHL all the way to university and seasoned ECHL players now playing in the UK’s top league.

GET Ligaen, Ligue Magnus, NLB, Polish Hockey League, Belarusian Extraleague, Metal Ligaen

A few of the leagues here could easily be swapped with ones from the grouping above, but for sake of organization and strength of the league from top to bottom, we’ve placed them here.

To play in this grouping of leagues as an import, teams are looking for you to at minimum possess solid NCAA or equivalent (major junior, USports, etc) playing experience if you don’t yet have pro games on your resume. 

Erste Liga, Alps Hockey League, Mestis, Czech2 (Chance Liga), France2, BeneLeague, Oberliga, HockeyEttan, Norway2

Clubs within this large grouping try to carry imports with good NCAA/USports experience.

A few of the leagues here are much stronger collectively than others...

Depending on how many import positions the league allows per club, the more strict (or flexible) teams may be in the type of players they bring over.

You’ll also find a few players throughout these leagues who bring with them AHL/ECHL experience too. Players with lighter CV’s may also earn a shot to play here. As we’ve noted, import spots can be tight so it’s vital to have access and a direct way in first off to even interest these clubs in your ability.

In a number of these leagues, you’ll find there’s a noticeable difference in skill level between top and bottom lines (or an import goalie and a local one). 

Imports are expected to be top producers on their respective clubs so the bar is set higher for them. We’ll touch on this more in later chapters.

Sweden Division 2, Suomi Sarja, NIHL, Slovakia2, France3

There are many quality hockey teams throughout the leagues in this grouping.

As the level of hockey in Europe has improved in recent years, so has the level of play in many lower to mid-level leagues.

Regarding the level of play here, you’ll find a mix of import players with some good level experience playing junior hockey, NCAA/USports, or major junior....depending on the team.

A league such as Sweden Division 2 is quite large in the number of teams throughout. Some Sweden Div 2 clubs are only interested in signing imports with quality university experience. Other clubs here are much more flexible in the players they’ll consider signing.

This is helpful since university is not the ideal route for some North American players (financial constraints, don’t enjoy school, etc).

The leagues in this grouping can be a great proving ground for 1st year pro players to show that they can play well and move up based on performance.

Spain, Icelandic Hockey League

Our closing grouping comprises of a few lower tier leagues that aren't necessarily hockey hotbeds per se, but they can still provide players with an amazing experience and cultural environment on and off the ice.

The majority of players we help work with land with teams in a bit higher tiers than this that are also in top notch European cities, but for a few players who wanted to live and play in these destinations, they've set it was a great set up and location.

It makes sense why...enjoying a coffee on the terrace overlooking the Mediterranean before practice ain't so bad.

ice hockey in spain away from the rink



What do European hockey teams expect in an import player that they sign?

Here in Chapter 5, we’ll walk you through general expectations that teams have...from player performance to leadership on/off the ice.

As a player, grasping this can help provide you with a sound understanding (from the teams point of view).

pro ice hockey expectations

As we’ve mentioned in earlier chapters, it’s expected of you to be a top player on your club as an import player. 

Not only are you likely being paid more than most other players within the organization, but there’s also a limited number of import spots available on each roster (depending on the league).

Due to this, the team will be more reliant on you to produce for them each game…whether that’s putting points on the board, shutting down opponents top lines as a defender, or providing stability on the back end in net for your team.

Depending on what level league you’re playing in, the pressure to perform may be higher or lower…

Just because you have an off game or 2 doesn’t mean you’re at risk of losing your job either though (most times). Much like any other profession whether in sport or business, your overall performance will be evaluated over a bit longer time horizon. 

pro hockey goalie in europe

Consistency and being value-add for the club on the ice matters...

Fortunately, numerous European countries have good employment laws that clubs must abide by. This helps ensure players are covered in case there’s a fall out mid season. This gets a bit murkier for players in a couple lower leagues (especially in parts of Eastern Europe), but in most all cases, teams treat players well if they’re able to.

On the bright side, many imports are able to thrive and over deliver on the value they bring to their clubs, setting an example on and off the ice for the rest of their team to follow. 

These players not only increase the likelihood of earning higher hockey salaries, but also moving up to higher hockey leagues in Europe.

Another quality that clubs look for in imports (alongside performance) is leadership.

You don’t necessarily need be the most vocal player in the locker room or on the bench to be a leader. Clubs just prefer imports who lead by example, whether it’s being the first/last player on the ice getting extra reps in practice or the manner in which you carry yourself off the ice with younger players and training staff.

European hockey is generally played on Olympic ice surfaces, therefore, it's expected that your skating is strong. The hockey rink dimensions at most arenas is much wider than your standard NHL-sized rink that you may be more accustomed to back home.

That being said, European hockey leagues have less intense game schedules throughout the season too.

This can help provide you with enough rest time to recover in-season so that you’re able to perform your best on the ice.

Now that you have a little better understanding on what hockey teams in Europe expect in players, let’s move onto an exciting aspect of the sport overseas….Atmosphere & Fans (Chapter 6)



If you’ve yet to experience a hockey match in Europe, you’re in for a treat once you do.

Based on conversations with many players, the atmosphere inside hockey arenas was always a favorite aspect of their experience playing overseas.

That’s why we’ll cover this here in Chapter 6…

ice hockey fans cheering

European Hockey Fans

In countless leagues across the EU, the atmosphere in the arena more resembles a football (soccer) match than a typical hockey game back in North America.

Fans have designated songs supporting the local club, they'll play drums and blow horns, stand/chant through long durations of the match, and their presence will amp up the intensity by quite a few notches.

Here’s a short video below to give you a brief look into the atmosphere and fans in various European arenas.

Even throughout many mid-level pro hockey leagues in Europe, teams will regularly draw thousands of fans per night depending on the popularity of the club, arena size, and so on.

As a player, there’s nothing that gets your energy going more than a passionate fan base (both at home and on the road).

Whether it’s 500 or 5,000 enthusiastic fans cheering…it’s an enjoyable experience both as a player and as a spectator.

In North America, fans in attendance act like most spectators do at a sporting match. They’ll stand and cheer when a big moment occurs (team scores, big fight), but they won’t necessarily be immersed throughout the entirety of the match.

Overseas, it’s a different story…

Fans feel a strong sense of pride and belonging for their team. A hockey match in Europe is an experience they’re fully a part of throughout the game…from start to finish.


Playing Hockey in Europe

We’ve spent the last 6 Chapters covering everything from culture to skill level and expectations to the atmosphere.

Now it’s time to put that knowledge to good use…

In this Chapter, we’ll provide you with some actionable advice if playing ice hockey in Europe is something you’re interested in.

This will help you in 2021.

hockey player drinking water

So you want to play pro hockey in Europe

What’s the best way to make that happen?

If European pro teams are already actively scouting you, reaching out directly, and in talks with you, you’re probably covered. 

Chances are though that you’re not currently in this position.

how to find a pro hockey team in europe

The truth is...

Many NCAA, USports, major junior, and junior players are never scouted personally from clubs overseas due to the sheer volume of quality players (both locally and abroad).

Even guys with pro experience don’t always get a fair look to play elsewhere either…

This means that even if you’re a quality player at your level, your play alone may not be enough to earn a pro hockey contract in Europe from afar.

If your resume is lighter (less point production, injury, time off, etc), it’s even harder without help. Having the right access to get your name in front of pro clubs in the EU is more crucial than ever.

Without this initial access and connections to get teams actually taking notice of you, it’s nearly impossible to even reach the right individuals at respective clubs. With the wide range of leagues and skill levels throughout each country, teams also handle recruiting quite differently from one country to the next.

A good hockey agency in Europe (or an agent) will understand all the intricacies well.

Over the years, we’ve helped countless players stand out so that they’re able to sign in Europe. 

These players range all the way from junior and ACHA players up to NCAA Div 1-3 and major junior graduates. We also help place a good number European players each season who already live in Europe, but are looking to play pro in another country.

Along with providing our players with direct access to clubs across the continent, another crucial pillar of a large process is presenting yourself in a well crafted manner. 

This ensures that teams will take you seriously from afar when they first learn about you.

We’ve seen every main objection under the sun for why clubs pass on import players…we help our players avoid these mistakes and more.

The last grouping here covers a few leagues that are a bit lesser known on the European hockey map. 

These leagues can provide an adequate spot for imports who are mainly looking to live abroad and continue to play semi professional hockey across the pond at a competitive level.

Now that we’ve covered a wide overview of the skill level that’s expected for imports who are looking to play hockey in Europe, let’s move on to Chapter 5 (Expectations)

import hockey player

As we’ve harped on a number of times throughout this guide, pro hockey teams in Europe are looking for imports who will:

In closing of this chapter, it's worth mentioning one last time that European Hockey is one of a kind. There are a variety of incredible countries and leagues to play in overseas that fit a wide scope of skill levels from top to bottom.

We hope that you were able to take some knowledge and insights regarding hockey in Europe away from this guide and that it helps you in your own journey. 

If you think that you have what it takes to continue playing in European hockey leagues overseas, send us a message and we’ll let you know if we feel we can help you (or not) based on your situation and goals.