It hurts me to admit this, but the first professional ice hockey league originated outside of Canada. I know it’s hard. I’ll give you a moment to collect your thoughts.
Now, dear reader, the Western Pennsylvania Hockey League, formed in 1902, was the first recognized hockey league in the world. While some of the teams within the league featured semi-professional players, it was the first hockey league to achieve professional designation.
In 1910, the National Hockey Association was established in Montreal, initially as an all-Canadian league, later rebranded to the National Hockey League in 1917 after disputes between ownership groups within the league. The Boston Bruins were the first American team to join the league.
As the game spread across the world, similar professional leagues developed across Europe as more foreign players joined the NHL. Currently, the top leagues in Europe are the following:
- Kontinental Hockey League
- Swedish Hockey League
- NLA (Switzerland)
- Finnish Liiga
- German DEL
In this guide, we will cover the history of the NHL, the top international competitions in the world of hockey, and will quickly go over the Canadian Hockey League and it’s three regional leagues.