The NHL is by far the most popular ice hockey league in the world. The total league revenue of season 2018/19 was over 5 billion US dollars and players salaries are the highest in the world. NHL is followed by fans all over the world but Canada and USA is where the most dedicated fans can be found.
NHL´s conferences and divisions explained
The NHL consists of 31 teams, 24 of which from the United States and 7 from Canada. The teams in NHL are divided into two conferences with two divisions each. During a standard season each team play 82 games each. Because the different total numbers of teams in each division, the distribution of whom each team plays against varies.
In the Eastern Confernence each team plays 28 within division, 24 within conference (non-divisional), 30 inter-conference. In the Western Confernence the distribution is 26/29 within division, 24/21 within conference (non-divisional), 32/32 inter-conference (CD/PD).
|Pacific Division||Central Division|
|Anaheim Ducks||Chicago Blackhawks|
|Arizona Coyotes||Colorado Avalanche|
|Calgary Flames||Dallas Stars|
|Edmonton Oilers||Minnesota Wild|
|Los Angeles Kings||Nashville Predators|
|San Jose Sharks||St. Louis Blues|
|Vancouver Canucks||Winnipeg Jets|
|Vegas Golden Knights|
|Atlantic Division||Metropolitan Division|
|Boston Bruins||Carolina Hurricanes|
|Buffalo Sabres||Columbus Blue Jackets|
|Detroit Red Wings||New Jersey Devils|
|Florida Panthers||New York Islanders|
|Montreal Canadiens||New York Rangers|
|Ottawa Senators||Philadelphia Flyers|
|Tampa Bay Lightning||Pittsburgh Penguins|
|Toronto Maple Leafs||Washington Capitals|
Regular season rules in the NHL
During the regular season, each full time win (inluding overtime or shoot out) is awarded with 2 points. A loss in overtime or shootout is awarded with 1 point, and a loss i regular full time gives 0 points. Losing in overtime with a pulled goaltender also gives 0 points.
The record for most NHL overtime goals is 20 and is held by Alex Ovechkin.
Regular season overtime
In regular season 1 x 5 minutes overtime period is added to a tied game. The OT-period is played with sudden death rules and 3 skaters per team. If the OT-period is tied there extends to a shootout.
The shootout is played in three rounds. If the game still is tied after three rounds, they are followed by an unlimited numbers of tiebreaker rounds. All players on each team (except the goaltenders) must shoot once before a player can have a second shot.
The NHL rink
The rink in the NHL measures 200 feet (60.96 m) by 85 feet (25.91 m), which is smaller compared to the international standards.
The history of hockey pretty much starts in Canada with the founding of The National Hockey Association (NHA) in 1909. The NHA introduced the new sport “six man hockey” which later in 1911 became the “five man hockey” as we know it today. The NHA was a hockey organization for teams in Ontario and Quebec.
Due to disagreements between the NHA owners, all NHA operations were suspended in 1917. Meanwhile, a splinter group of owners started the NHL in parallel during the suspension. A year went by and the owners conflict couldn’t reach a solution, which led to a permanent suspension of the NHA. The rules, constitution and trophies were passed on to the NHL and a new era in ice hockey begins.
The early years
After the owner debacle in 1917, the league could finally start over. The newly founded NHL consisted of 5 teams, all from Canada.
|NHL teams in 1917|
|Montreal Wanderers||Ottawa Senators|
|Quebec Athletic Club||Toronto Hockey Club (today Maple Leafs)|
The Stanley Cup finals during this period, was held between the winner of the NHL and the winner of PCHA (The Pacific Coast Hockey Association). The PCHA was another professional ice hockey league based on the US west coast which over the years led to PCHL and WHL. We will come back to WHL later on.
By 1927 the league had expanded very rapidly over the past 10 years and consisted of 12 teams. The league also included the first American teams.
|NHL teams in 1927|
|Montreal Wanderers||Boston Bruins|
|Quebec Athletic Club||New York Americans|
|Montreal Canadiens||Pittsburgh Pirates|
|Ottawa Senators||New York Rangers|
|Toronto Hockey Club (today Maple Leafs)||Chicago Blackhawks|
|Montreal Maroons||Detroit Cougars (later Red Wings)|
The original six
The Great Depression and World War II struck the NHL really bad, which meant the end to many of the teams. Before the beginning of 1942-43 season, the league was reduced to only six teams. However this was a milestone for the league as we know it today.
|“The original six” teams of the NHL|
|Boston Bruins||Montreal Canadiens|
|Chicago Black Hawks||New York Rangers|
|Detroit Red Wings||Toronto Maple Leafs|
“The original six” constellation was consistent for 25 years and all teams still play in the NHL today.
The 1967 expansion of the NHL
During the 1960’s ice hockey had grown into a popular sport in the US and Canada. The demand for television broadcasting of the NHL was huge. At the time, the minor league WHA was planning on declare itself as a major league to take up the competition with the NHL. This led to the decision to the expansion of the National Hockey League. In 1967, the league welcomed 6 brand new teams to play in the 1967-68 season.
|Teams of the NHL in 1967|
|“The original six”||New teams|
|Boston Bruins||Los Angeles Kings|
|Chicago Black Hawks||Minnesota North Stars|
|Detroit Red Wings||Philadelphia Flyers|
|Montreal Canadiens||Pittsburgh Penguins|
|New York Rangers||California Seals|
|Toronto Maple Leafs||St. Louis Blues|
After the 1967 expansion Canadian fans were disappointed that there were no new Canadian teams added to the league. This led to the addition of Vancouver Canucks and the Buffalo Sabres in 1970.
The NHL and WHA merger agreement 1979
In 1972 a new major ice hockey league was founded, the WHA (World Hockey Association). To stand the competition NHL added another 4 teams over the years 1972-74, New York Islanders, Atlanta Flames, Washington Capitals and Kansas City Scouts. NHL now consisted of 18 teams.
The competition between NHL and WHA was harsh and NHL lost many players to the new and upcoming WHA.
The most controversial player transfer was Bobby Hull, who signed a 10 year contract with the Winnipeg Jets worth $2.5 million. At the time, this was the largest contract in history.
The competition was so hard that both of the leagues were financially damaged. The leagues agreed on a merger in 1979 which led to the addition of Winnipeg Jets, Edmonton Oilers, Hartford Whalers and Quebec Nordiques to the NHL.
NHL in the 1980’s and 1990’s
After the merger in 1979 the NHL started blossoming in the 1980’s and 1990’s. New teams that were added over the two decades was
- Edmonton Oilers (1979)
- San Jose Sharks (1991)
- Tampa Bay Lightning (1992)
- Ottawa Senators (1992)
- Mighty Ducks of Anaheim (1993)
- Florida Panthers (1993)
- Nashville Predators (1998)
- Atlanta Thrashers (1999, now Winnipeg Jets)
- Minnesota Wild (2000)
- Columbus Blue Jackets (2000)
Latest additions to the NHL
In 2017 Vegas Golden Knights made a grand entrance in the NHL, by winning the Pacific Division and make it all the way to the Stanley Cup Finals. Unfortunately they lost the finals against Washington Capitals. The following season wasn’t to bad either as they ended up in 3rd place in the Pacific Division but was knocked out in the first round of the play-offs.
In December 2018 the NHL announced that a new franchise in Seattle (Kraken) will begin play in the 2021–22 season. We can not wait to see what they have in store for us…