As with teams in other professional sports leagues, NHL teams employ assistant coaches to work with their head coaches. Assistant coaches in the NHL help to prepare game strategies, conduct and plan practices and communicate with players during games. Though not as well-paid as head coaches, NHL assistant coaches can earn six-figure salaries and are frequently promoted to head coaching opportunities.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics lists the average salary of coaches at $28,340 annually as of 2008. The highest 10 percent earn more than $62,660, according to the Bureau. Coaches in the NHL earn significantly higher salaries. The average salary for NHL coaches is $1 million, according to a September 2009 article by Yahoo Sports.
A Closer Look
NHL assistant coaches typically earn less than six-figure salaries annually. A February 2006 article in the New York Times chronicling the betting scandal of Rick Tocchet, an assistant coach for the Phoenix Cayotes, reports Tocchet's salary at $89,000 annually. Tocchet's salary was well below the average salary for an NHL assistant coach, which is between $150,000 and $200,000 annually, according to an April 2011 article for the Columbus Dispatch.
Loss of Work
The salary of an NHL assistant coach is greatly impacted by a team's decision to hire or fire a head coach. Because a number of head coaches have the ability to hire their own staff members, their termination often means the same for their assistant coaches. In April of 2011, the Ottawa Senators fired head coach Cory Clouston and his assistants, following a season in which the team failed to make the playoffs.
The most common way for NHL assistant coaches to receive salary increases is by becoming head coaches. Examples of this case are Paul Maclean and Claude Noel, former assistant coaches for the Detroit Red Wings and Columbus Blue Jackets, respectively. Maclean will coach the Ottawa Senators and Noel will coach new a new franchise in Winnipeg (name not established as of July 2011). Overall, the opportunity for assistant coaches to become head coaches is tough -- due to economic considerations and the need for some teams to hire less experienced coaches at cheaper prices.