Minor League Hockey is amateur ice hockey where there is a variety of different development leagues around the world for players to develop their game and hopefully make it to the pros. The American Hockey League, East Coast Hockey League, and Ontario Hockey League are just a few examples of these leagues.
The AHL serves as the main development league for NHL teams, where players from those teams are called up into the NHL from their respective teams. The ECHL is also another very popular league for NHL teams to recruit and scout players. Hockey players are typically drafted in the NHL and will spend some time in the AHL or Canadian Hockey League.
Eligibility in these leagues comes with a variety of different rules depending on the player's age and where he was drafted out of, and they can get pretty confusing. The big thing to know is a player that is drafted will end up being eligible for the AHL, OHL, or go straight to the NHL.
Like most hockey games, a minor league game is three periods, each lasting 20 minutes. These games will typically take at least 2 hours to play. Each intermission between periods will last 15 minutes, and between the second and third periods, there will be maintenance in the rink so the intermission may be a bit longer. High end minor league games have stoppage time, which comes into play due to rule infractions, timeouts, and intermission.
The AHL is a developmental hockey league for professional hockey players to progress and hopefully make it into the NHL. Since 1010, every team has had an affiliation with one NHL team. AHL players must be at least 18 years of age, and may not be a member of a junior hockey team. The league also limits the number of experienced professionals on a team's active roster. Only five skaters can have four full seasons of play at the professional level.
In hockey, there are many different levels that start for kids at the young age of 9 years old. The levels go from squirt, to Pewee (11-12), to Bantam (13-14), to Midget (15). The Junior level is for people who are under 21 years old, and that is a popular NHL development organization where there are leagues such as the Ontario Hockey League.
The Ontario Hockey League (OHL) is one of the three major hockey leagues that constitute the Canadian Hockey League. It is primarily for athletes between the ages of 16-21, and is a great stepping stone for Canadian players to get into the NHL. It is the world's largest development league in the world with 60 teams across nine provinces and five American States.