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The league rankings shown are from 2008 rankings of the International Ice Hockey Federation. The IIHF ranked the European Hockey Leagues for the purpose of seeding the teams for the Champions Hockey League which ran for just one season.

Top European Hockey Leagues

1. Russia

Kontinental Hockey League

The Kontinental Hockey League (KHL) is ranked as the strongest hockey league in Europe. The league was formed in 2008, from a predecessor organization, the Russian Superleague (RSL). The RSL, in turn, was a successor to the Soviet Championship League, which was founded in 1946.

74% of players are Russian, 16% are Eastern European, 5% Scandinavian, and 5% North American.

There are 24 teams in 2 12-team conferences. After the 56-game regular season, the top 8 teams in each conference advance to the play-offs.

2. Finland


The SM-liiga was created in 1975 to replace the SM-sarja, which was fundamentally an amateur league.

There are 14 teams. The six best teams at the conclusion of regular season proceed directly to quarter-finals. The next four teams play best-out-of-three with the two winners taking the last two quarter-finals slots.

3. Czech Republic

Czech Extraliga

The Czech Extraliga is rooted in the Czechoslovak First Ice Hockey League. The Czech Extraliga was spun off in 1993 following the administrative break-up of Czechoslovakia.

14 teams compete in the league. The top 10 teams at the end of the 52-game regular season advance to the play-offs.

4. Sweden


Elitserien, (also known as the Swedish Elite League or the SEL) was founded in 1975. The Swedish ice hockey championhips have been played in various forms since 1922.

12 teams play a 55-game season with the top 8 teams advancing to the play-offs. The 2 lowest ranked teams after the regular season have to play with 4 teams from the second tier league HockeyAllsvenskan. The top 2 teams qualify for the next Elitserien season.

5. Slovakia

Slovak Extraliga

The Slovak Extraliga is rooted in the Czechoslovak Extraliga. The 1993/94 was the first season of Slovak Extraliga as Czechoslovakia split into the Czech Republic and Slovakia on January 1, 1993.

The league has 13 teams with the first 8 teams playing in the play-offs.

6. Switzerland

National League A

National League A (NLA) was established in 1999. It has the most attended hockey club in Europe, SC Bern, and is also the most attended league.

During the regular season, each of the 12 teams play 50 games. The top eight teams after the regular season qualify for the playoffs to determine the Swiss champion in best-of-seven series'. The bottom four teams in the standings play a relegation tournament with the loser then playing the winner of the National League B playoffs in a best-of-seven series for a spot in the successive NLA season.

7. Germany

Deutsche Eishockey Liga

The Deutsche Eishockey Liga (German Ice Hockey League, shortname DEL) was formed in 1994 as a replacement for the Ice hockey Bundesliga which had been established in 1957. It has the highest number of American and Canadian players outside of North America.