The “Alpha Couple” are usually the two original parents. Since an alpha pair is another way of describing a breeding pair, any offspring can become alphas by leaving the pack upon reaching maturity, finding a wolf of the opposite sex, and creating a pack of their own.
Sometimes outside wolves replace one member of the breeding pair, but the pack still ends up as 2 parents and offspring. There are exceptions like when larger family packs join, though.
Wolves in packs do display dominant or submissive behavior, but the authority structures are more family-based. Interestingly, submissive behavior showed up even in the main breeding pair.
The wolves also all tried to steal food from each other or defend their food from other wolves regardless of rank.
Source is a paper on wolf-pack behavior from 1999. The PDF can be found here.
Here’s an interesting quote about feeding order:
Similarly, pups are subordinate to both parents and to older siblings, yet they are fed
preferentially by the parents, and even by their older (dominant) siblings (Mech et al.
1999). On the other hand, parents both dominate older offspring and restrict their food
intake when food is scarce, feeding pups instead. Thus, the most practical effect of social
dominance is to allow the dominant individual the choice of to whom to allot food.
Apparently the author himself used to believe in the alpha theory of dominance and was partially responsible for spreading it. Here’s the video where he explains he was wrong. Relevant bit starts about a minute in. He does say that some packs, like in Yellowstone, have multiple breeders and those breeders are ranked. That’s not common, but it does happen.
His paper also mentions that possibility and says the dominance is based on age. Alpha female’s the mom, subordinate female breeders are her daughters that breed with unrelated wolves.
Never Cry Wolf was published in 1963 and has run into controversy for misrepresenting some facts.
Here’s a 2012 article that says the book is basically fiction. The author even admitted to making things up.
In conclusion, there is a hierarchy, but it’s family-based and somewhat fluid in that any wolf can become a breeding alpha by making its own pack.
Honestly, I didn’t know half this stuff before today when I was looking it up for this post, so I’ve learned a lot too. No worries, though. You’ve still got a great game.