Canadian Hockey League
SportIce hockey
Founded1975; 49 years ago (1975)
PresidentDan MacKenzie
No. of teams60
United States
Most recent
Quebec Remparts (3)
TV partner(s)TSN
Rogers TV (OHL)
Eastlink TV/TVA Sports (QMJHL)

The Canadian Hockey League (CHL; French: Ligue canadienne de hockey ‒ LCH) is an umbrella organization that represents the three Canada-based major junior ice hockey leagues. The CHL was founded in 1975 as the Canadian Major Junior Hockey League,[1] and is composed of its three member leagues, the Western Hockey League, Ontario Hockey League, and Quebec Maritimes Junior Hockey League. For the 2023–24 season, its three leagues and 60 teams represent nine Canadian provinces (51 teams) as well as four American states (nine teams).

The CHL schedule culminates in the Memorial Cup tournament, which sees each of the three league playoff champions, as well as a host team, play a round-robin tournament to determine a national champion. The CHL also hosts the CHL/NHL Top Prospects Game, for the top draft eligible players in the league, as well as the CHL Canada/Russia Series, a six-game all-star exhibition series against a team of Russian juniors. In response to the 2022 Russian invasion of Ukraine, the Canadian Hockey League cancelled the event in 2022.

The current president of the CHL is Dan MacKenzie.


The Canadian Hockey League (CHL) is the governing body for Major Junior hockey (formerly known as Tier One Junior A), the top level of amateur hockey in Canada. The CHL currently oversees the Western Hockey League (WHL), the Ontario Hockey League (OHL) and the Quebec Maritimes Junior Hockey League (QMJHL), with the OHL and WHL having teams in both Canada and the United States. Each league plays individual regular season schedules, and playoffs. The annual CHL championship is determined by the Memorial Cup tournament held in May.

The CHL is generally considered the world's top junior hockey league for developing professional players and is a key supplier of new players and officials for the many North American professional hockey leagues, such as the National Hockey League, American Hockey League, and the ECHL.[2] If a CHL player does not sign a professional contract, many also opt to play for U Sports (formerly Canadian Interuniversity Sport - CIS) and go to school due to CHL sponsored scholarship programs. However, due to the use of paying player stipends and allowing junior players that have signed entry level contracts with the NHL,[3] all CHL teams are considered professional by the NCAA; thus any player who plays a game at the Major Junior level loses their eligibility to play for universities in the United States.[4]

The CHL also seeks to raise the profile of the junior game by hosting annual events such as the Memorial Cup, the CHL/NHL Top Prospects Game and the CHL Canada/Russia Series. The organization also provides many scholarships and bursaries for its players who exemplify extraordinary efforts and community involvement. These programs are supported by the many corporate sponsors.


On May 9, 1975, officials from the Western Canada Hockey League, the Ontario Major Junior Hockey League and the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, announced a constitution to establish the Canadian Major Junior Hockey League (CMJHL) composed of the three league under one umbrella. The new organization wanted standard contracts for all players, consistent dollar amounts for development fees paid by professional leagues to sign junior players, and for the National Hockey League and the World Hockey Association to work together on a common drafting program to eliminate bidding wars. The CMJHL sought to represent players directly instead of agents, and proposed an escalating development fee schedule if professional teams wanted to sign a player while he was still eligible for junior hockey. The league also proposed to allow some players under professional contracts to continue playing in junior hockey.[5][6] Ontario's commissioner Tubby Schmalz defended the validity of the constitution, despite a challenge from Alan Eagleson that it violated antitrust laws in Canada and the United States.[7]

On July 30, 2019, Dan MacKenzie was announced as the new full-time president as of September 2019, taking over for David Branch.[8][9][10] In March 2020, the CHL and its constituent leagues cancelled the remainder of the 2019–20 regular seasons, playoffs and the 2020 Memorial Cup, due to the COVID-19 pandemic in North America.[11]

The QMJHL and WHL played a 2020–21 season with limitations; the WHL played a shortened season consisting exclusively of regional play and no playoffs, with "bubbles" used for all B.C. and East Division games. The QMJHL was the only CHL league to play a full season with playoffs, albeit with disruptions and the use of bubbles due to public health orders in Quebec and travel restrictions in Atlantic Canada. Due to public health orders in Ontario, the OHL indefinitely delayed, and later cancelled the 2020–21 season.[12][13][14][15][16] The Memorial Cup was cancelled and not awarded for the second consecutive season.[17]

On July 21, 2021, the CHL announced a new national media rights deal with Bell Media and the CBC (replacing a long-standing relationship with Sportsnet), under which TSN (English) and RDS (French) will serve as the CHL's national media partners. TSN will carry 30 regular season games per-season, RDS will carry 20 regular season games per-season, and both will carry coverage of selected playoff games and CHL national events (including the Memorial Cup). CBC Sports will also carry coverage of selected games beginning in the 2021–22 season, including a package of early-season games, and a game of the week package on TSN, RDS, and CBC Gem.[18]

Exceptional player status

Exceptional player status allows skilled, underage hockey players to enter the major junior circuit early.[19] Hockey Canada determines if an underage player is eligible for "exceptional status".[20] The clause was introduced in the CHL rule book in the 2005–06 season, starting with John Tavares.[21] As of 2023, eight players have been granted exceptional status: John Tavares, Aaron Ekblad, Sean Day, Connor McDavid, Joseph Veleno, Connor Bedard, Shane Wright and Michael Misa. The status has been granted six times to OHL prospects, with the WHL and QMJHL producing one exceptional status player each.[22] As of 2022, seven have gone number one in their respective major junior drafts while four players have been selected first overall in their respective NHL drafts.[23]

Annual events

Memorial Cup

Main articles: Memorial Cup and List of Memorial Cup champions

The Memorial Cup Tournament is the championship of Junior Canadian hockey. Each year it features the champions from the (WHL, OHL, QMJHL) and the host CHL team. The host team changes from year to year, and is selected by a bidding process prior to the start of each season. The annual event is one of the biggest sporting events in North America, attracting thousands of spectators and generating increasing revenue for both the CHL teams and the host city.

CHL/NHL Top Prospects Game

Main article: CHL/NHL Top Prospects Game

The CHL/NHL Top Prospects Game is an annual event sponsored by Home Hardware and hosted by the CHL in which 40 of the top NHL Entry Draft eligible prospects in the Canadian Hockey League play against each other much like an all-star game. Each draft prospect hopes to boost their draft ranking with the NHL scouts and general managers who attend. The players are typically coached by a pair of hockey celebrities, usually Don Cherry and Bobby Orr. The event has been held annually since 1992. From 1992 to 1995 the event was known as the CHL All-Star Challenge and usually pitted one of the CHL's leagues against the other two.

CHL Canada/Russia Series

Main article: CHL Canada/Russia Series

The CHL Canada/Russia Series is an annual junior ice hockey exhibition tournament held between a select team of Russian players and all-star teams representing the Quebec Maritimes Junior Hockey League, the Ontario Hockey League and the Western Hockey League. The event is organized by the Canadian Hockey League and consists of six games total each year, with the Russian Selects playing two games versus each league's all-star team. All games are broadcast nationally in Canada on Sportsnet. The series often features players from the Canadian national junior team, and the Russian national junior team.

In response to the 2022 Russian invasion of Ukraine, the Canadian Hockey League cancelled the event in 2022.[24]

CHL Import Draft

Main article: CHL Import Draft

The CHL Import Draft is an annual event in which every team in the Canadian Hockey League may select the rights to eligible import players. An import is classified as a player whose parents are not residents of Canada or the United States. The draft is conducted online, during the last week of June, or first week of July. Teams from the Western Hockey League, Ontario Hockey League, and Quebec Maritimes Junior Hockey League, systematically take turns making selections in reverse order of the team's standings in the CHL from the previous season. Teams can have a maximum of two imports, which may only be obtained through the draft.

Trophies and awards

Main article: List of Canadian Hockey League awards

The Canadian Hockey League awards sixteen annual trophies for accomplishments during the regular and at the Memorial Cup to top individuals and teams among its three member leagues. The Memorial Cup is the top award for the championship team at the end-of-season Memorial Cup tournament. A set of five individual awards are given for performance at the tournament. In the regular season, Canadian Hockey League also presents ten annual awards.[25] The nominees for each individual award are determined by the winner of the corresponding award handed out by each of the Canadian Hockey League's three member leagues, the Ontario Hockey League, the Quebec Maritimes Junior Hockey League, and the Western Hockey League.[26]

Memorial Cup — Tournament awards
Trophy name Recognition Founded
Memorial Cup Canadian Hockey League champion 1919
Stafford Smythe Memorial Trophy Most valuable player 1972
George Parsons Trophy Most sportsmanlike player 1974
Hap Emms Memorial Trophy Outstanding goaltender 1975
Ed Chynoweth Trophy Leading scorer 1996
Memorial Cup All-Star Team Best player at each position 1975
Regular season — Individual awards
Trophy name Recognition Founded
Brian Kilrea Coach of the Year Award Coach of the year 1988
CHL Player of the Year Most outstanding player 1975
CHL Top Scorer Award Top scoring player 1994
CHL Goaltender of the Year Most outstanding goaltender 1988
CHL Defenceman of the Year Most outstanding defenceman 1988
CHL Rookie of the Year Most outstanding rookie 1988
CHL Top Draft Prospect Award Top draft prospect 1991
CHL Scholastic Player of the Year Top scholastic player 1988
CHL Sportsman of the Year Most sportsmanlike player 1990
CHL Humanitarian of the Year Top humanitarian player 1993
CHL Executive of the Year Most outstanding executive 1989


For the 2023–24 season, the league includes 60 teams located in nine Canadian provinces (51 teams) and four American states (9 teams). Currently, nine of the ten Canadian provinces have a member team. Newfoundland and Labrador is the only province without a team.


Listed below are the top CHL teams by average attendance for the 2022–23 regular season. Teams with an average attendance over 5,000 are shown.[27][28][29]

The CHL single game attendance record is held by the London Knights and Plymouth Whalers for the December 29, 2013 outdoor game at Comerica Park in Detroit, Michigan. A total of 26,384 spectators took in the game.[30]

Pos. Team League Average
1. Quebec Remparts QMJHL 9,726
2. London Knights OHL 8,995
3. Halifax Mooseheads QMJHL 7,642
4. Edmonton Oil Kings WHL 6,412
5. Kitchener Rangers OHL 6,261
6. Spokane Chiefs WHL 5,842
7. Everett Silvertips WHL 5,840
8. Oshawa Generals OHL 5,037


  1. ^ ":::: The Official Ohl Website ::::". October 5, 2023.
  2. ^ "2018 Draft Prospect Rankings". Retrieved March 27, 2018.
  3. ^ "Learning About the Western Hockey League and Major Junior Hockey". Five for Howling. February 23, 2010. Archived from the original on August 17, 2016. Retrieved July 14, 2016.
  4. ^ "Daily Dish: Major Junior Misunderstanding". Junior Hockey News. September 3, 2013. Archived from the original on August 21, 2016. Retrieved November 15, 2016.
  5. ^ Passa, Dennis (May 9, 1975). "Junior leagues are together". Brandon Sun. Brandon, Manitoba. p. 21.Free access icon
  6. ^ "CMJHL becomes legal entity". Medicine Hat News. Medicine Hat, Alberta. May 9, 1975. p. 11.Free access icon
  7. ^ "Junior game will disappear". Brandon Sun. Brandon, Manitoba. May 10, 1975. p. 6.Free access icon
  8. ^ Beneteau, Josh (July 30, 2019). "CHL hires NBA executive Dan MacKenzie to be first full-time president". Retrieved August 8, 2019.
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  11. ^ Koshan, Terry (May 6, 2020). "CHL president Dan MacKenzie optimistic, keeps avenues open for eventual return". Journal Pioneer. Retrieved June 20, 2020.
  12. ^ Lale, Brent (April 5, 2021). "OHL players remain hopeful for return despite provincial shutdown". CTV News London. Retrieved April 13, 2021.
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  14. ^ "Details of OHL hub cities, bubbles being worked on: Ontario sport minister". Global News. Retrieved April 13, 2021.
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  19. ^ Brien, David. "The Definition of Exceptional". Hockey Canada. Retrieved October 23, 2023.
  20. ^ Press, Canadian. "Michael Misa joins elite class of 15-year-olds granted exceptional status in OHL". CBC. Retrieved October 23, 2023.
  21. ^ Press, Canadian. "Tavares, McDavid ... Wright? 15-year-old granted CHL exceptional player status". CBC. Retrieved October 23, 2023.
  22. ^ Beneteau, Josh. "Forward Connor Bedard to be first exceptional status player in WHL". Sportsnet. Retrieved October 23, 2023.
  23. ^ Anderson, Rhett. "The Exceptionals : A History of the CHL'S Exceptional Player Status". The Draft Report. Retrieved October 23, 2023.
  24. ^ Ellis, Steven (March 2, 2022). "CHL Cancels Canada–Russia Exhibition Series". The Hockey News. Retrieved March 24, 2022.
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  29. ^ "Western Hockey League 2022-23 Attendance Graph". HockeyDB. Retrieved July 4, 2023.
  30. ^ "Spits top Spirit 6-5 at Comerica Park". December 30, 2013. Archived from the original on December 31, 2013. Retrieved March 27, 2018.