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National Hockey League

North American professional ice hockey league

Top 10 National Hockey League related articles

National Hockey League
Ligue nationale de hockey (French)
Current season, competition or edition:
2019–20 NHL season
SportIce hockey
FoundedNovember 26, 1917 (102 years ago) (1917-11-26),
Montreal, Quebec, Canada[1]
Inaugural season1917–18
CommissionerGary Bettman
No. of teams31[2]
CountriesCanada (7 teams)
United States (24 teams)
HeadquartersNew York City, New York, U.S.
Most recent
St. Louis Blues
(1st title)
Most titlesMontreal Canadiens
(25 titles)[nb 1]
TV partner(s)
Official websiteNHL.com

The National Hockey League (NHL; French: Ligue nationale de hockey—LNH) is a professional ice hockey league in North America, currently comprising 31 teams: 24 in the United States and seven in Canada. The NHL is considered to be the premier professional ice hockey league in the world,[3] and one of the major professional sports leagues in the United States and Canada. The Stanley Cup, the oldest professional sports trophy in North America,[4] is awarded annually to the league playoff champion at the end of each season.

The National Hockey League was organized on November 26, 1917, at the Windsor Hotel in Montreal after the suspension of operations of its predecessor organization, the National Hockey Association (NHA), which had been founded in 1909 in Renfrew, Ontario.[5] The NHL immediately took the NHA's place as one of the leagues that contested for the Stanley Cup in an annual interleague competition before a series of league mergers and foldings left the NHL as the only league left competing for the Stanley Cup in 1926.

At its inception, the NHL had four teams—all in Canada, thus the adjective "National" in the league's name. The league expanded to the United States in 1924, when the Boston Bruins joined, and has since consisted of American and Canadian teams. From 1942 to 1967, the league had only six teams, collectively (if not contemporaneously) nicknamed the "Original Six". The NHL added six new teams to double its size at the 1967 NHL expansion. The league then increased to 18 teams by 1974 and 21 teams in 1979. Between 1991 and 2000, the NHL further expanded to 30 teams. It added its 31st team in 2017 and has approved the addition of a 32nd team in 2021.

The league's headquarters have been in New York City since 1989 when the head office moved there from Montreal.[6] There have been four league-wide work stoppages in NHL history, all occurring after 1992.[7] The International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) considers the Stanley Cup to be one of the "most important championships available to the sport".[8] The NHL draws many highly skilled players from all over the world and currently has players from approximately 20 countries.[9] Canadians have historically constituted the majority of the players in the league, with an increasing percentage of American and European players in recent seasons.

The NHL is the fifth wealthiest professional sport league after the NFL, the MLB, the NBA, and the Premier League by revenue.[10]

National Hockey League Intro articles: 10


Early years

The National Hockey League was established in 1917 as the successor to the National Hockey Association (NHA). Founded in 1909, the NHA began play one year later with seven teams in Ontario and Quebec, and was one of the first major leagues in professional ice hockey. But by the NHA's eighth season, a series of disputes with Toronto Blueshirts owner Eddie Livingstone led team owners of the Montreal Canadiens, Montreal Wanderers, Ottawa Senators, and Quebec Bulldogs to hold a meeting to discuss the league's future.[11] Realizing the NHA constitution left them unable to force Livingstone out, the four teams voted instead to suspend the NHA, and on November 26, 1917, formed the National Hockey League. Frank Calder was chosen as its first president, serving until his death in 1943.[12]

The Bulldogs were unable to play, and the remaining owners created a new team in Toronto, the Arenas, to compete with the Canadiens, Wanderers and Senators.[13] The first games were played on December 19, 1917.[14] The Montreal Arena burned down in January 1918, causing the Wanderers to cease operations,[15] and the NHL continued on as a three-team league until the Bulldogs returned in 1919.[16]

The NHL replaced the NHA as one of the leagues that competed for the Stanley Cup, which was an interleague competition back then. Toronto won the first NHL title, and then defeated the Vancouver Millionaires of the Pacific Coast Hockey Association (PCHA) for the 1918 Stanley Cup.[17] The Canadiens won the league title in 1919; however their Stanley Cup Final against the PCHA's Seattle Metropolitans was abandoned as a result of the Spanish Flu epidemic.[18] Montreal in 1924 won their first Stanley Cup as a member of the NHL.[19] The Hamilton Tigers, won the regular season title in 1924–25 but refused to play in the championship series unless they were given a C$200 bonus.[20] The league refused and declared the Canadiens the league champion after they defeated the Toronto St. Patricks (formerly the Arenas) in the semi-final. Montreal was then defeated by the Victoria Cougars of the Western Canada Hockey League (WCHL) for the 1925 Stanley Cup. It was the last time a non-NHL team won the trophy,[21] as the Stanley Cup became the de facto NHL championship in 1926 after the WCHL ceased operation.[22]

The National Hockey League embarked on rapid expansion in the 1920s, adding the Montreal Maroons and Boston Bruins in 1924. The Bruins were the first American team in the league.[23] The New York Americans began play in 1925 after purchasing the assets of the Hamilton Tigers, and were joined by the Pittsburgh Pirates.[24] The New York Rangers were added in 1926.[25] The Chicago Black Hawks and Detroit Cougars (later Red Wings) were also added after the league purchased the assets of the defunct WCHL.[26] A group purchased the Toronto St. Patricks in 1927 and immediately renamed them the Maple Leafs.[27]

The Original Six

The first NHL All-Star Game was held in 1934 to benefit Ace Bailey, whose career ended on a vicious hit by Eddie Shore.[28] The second was held in 1937 in support of Howie Morenz's family when he died of a coronary embolism after breaking his leg during a game.[29]

The Great Depression and the onset of World War II took a toll on the league. The Pirates became the Philadelphia Quakers in 1930, then folded one year later. The Senators likewise became the St. Louis Eagles in 1934, also lasting only one year.[30] The Maroons did not survive, as they suspended operations in 1938.[31] The Americans were suspended in 1942 due to a lack of available players, and were never reactivated.[32]

The league was reduced to six teams for the 1942–43 NHL season: the Boston Bruins, Chicago Black Hawks, Detroit Red Wings, Montreal Canadiens, New York Rangers and Toronto Maple Leafs. These six teams remained constant for 25 years, a period known as the Original Six. The league reached an agreement with the Stanley Cup trustees in 1947 to take full control of the trophy, allowing the NHL to reject challenges from other leagues that wished to play for the Cup.[33]

Montreal Canadiens in 1942

In 1945, Maurice "Rocket" Richard became the first player to score 50 goals, doing so in a 50-game season.[34] Richard later led the Canadiens to five consecutive titles between 1956 and 1960, a record no team has matched.[35]

On March 13, 1948, Larry Kwong became the first non-white player in the NHL and broke the league's colour barrier, playing for the New York Rangers.[36][37] Ten years later, Willie O'Ree became the first black player in league history on January 18, 1958, when he made his debut with the Boston Bruins.[38]

Post-Original Six expansion

By the mid-1960s, the desire for a network television contract in the U.S., and concerns that the Western Hockey League was planning to declare itself a major league and challenge for the Stanley Cup, spurred the league to undertake its first expansion since the 1920s. The league doubled in size to 12 teams for the 1967–68 season, adding the Los Angeles Kings, Minnesota North Stars, Philadelphia Flyers, Pittsburgh Penguins, California Seals and St. Louis Blues.[39] Canadian fans were outraged that all six teams were placed in the United States,[40] and the league responded by adding the Vancouver Canucks in 1970 along with the Buffalo Sabres, who are both located on the Canada–US border.[41] Two years later, the emergence of the newly founded World Hockey Association (WHA) led the league to add the New York Islanders and Atlanta Flames to keep the rival league out of those markets.[42] In 1974, the Washington Capitals and Kansas City Scouts were added, bringing the league up to 18 teams.[43]

The National Hockey League fought the WHA for players, losing 67 to the new league in its first season of 1972–73,[44] including Bobby Hull, who signed a ten-year, $2.5 million contract with the Winnipeg Jets, the largest in hockey history at the time.[45] The league attempted to block the defections in court, but a counter-suit by the WHA led to a Philadelphia judge ruling the NHL's reserve clause to be illegal, thus eliminating the elder league's monopoly over the players.[46] Seven years of battling for players and markets financially damaged both leagues, leading to a 1979 merger agreement that saw the WHA cease operations while the NHL absorbed the Winnipeg Jets, Edmonton Oilers, Hartford Whalers and Quebec Nordiques.[47] The owners initially rejected this merger agreement by one vote, but a massive boycott of Molson Brewery products by fans in Canada caused the Montreal Canadiens, which was owned by Molson, to reverse its position, along with the Vancouver Canucks. In a second vote the plan was approved.[48]

Wayne Gretzky played one season in the WHA for the Indianapolis Racers (eight games) and the Edmonton Oilers (72 games) before the Oilers joined the National Hockey League for the 1979–80 season.[49] Gretzky went on to lead the Oilers to four Stanley Cup championships in 1984, 1985, 1987 and 1988, and set single season records for goals (92 in 1981–82), assists (163 in 1985–86) and points (215 in 1985–86), as well as career records for goals (894), assists (1,963) and points (2,857).[49] He was traded to the Kings in 1988, a deal that dramatically improved the league's popularity in the United States. By the turn of the century nine more teams were added to the NHL: the San Jose Sharks, Tampa Bay Lightning, Ottawa Senators, Mighty Ducks of Anaheim, Florida Panthers, Nashville Predators, Atlanta Thrashers (now Winnipeg Jets), and in 2000 the Minnesota Wild and Columbus Blue Jackets.[50] On July 21, 2015, the NHL confirmed that it had received applications from prospective ownership groups in Quebec City and Las Vegas for possible expansion teams,[51] and on June 22, 2016, NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman announced the addition of a 31st franchise, based in Las Vegas and later named the Vegas Golden Knights, into the NHL for the 2017–18 season.[52] On December 4, 2018, the league announced a 32nd franchise in Seattle to begin play in the 2021–22 season.[53]

Labour issues

There have been four league-wide work stoppages in NHL history, all occurring after 1992. The first was a strike by the National Hockey League Players' Association in April 1992 which lasted for ten days, but the strike was settled quickly and all affected games were rescheduled.[54]

A lockout at the start of the 1994–95 season forced the league to reduce the schedule from 84 games to just 48, with the teams playing only intra-conference games during the reduced season.[54] The resulting collective bargaining agreement (CBA) was set for renegotiation in 1998 and extended to September 15, 2004.[55]

With no new agreement in hand when the contract expired on September 15, 2004, league commissioner Gary Bettman announced a lockout of the players union and closed the league's head office.[55] The league vowed to install what it dubbed "cost certainty" for its teams, but the Players' Association countered that the move was little more than a euphemism for a salary cap, which the union initially said it would not accept. The lockout shut down the league for 310 days, the longest in sports history, as the NHL became the first professional sports league to lose an entire season.[55] A new collective bargaining agreement was eventually ratified in July 2005, including a salary cap. The agreement had a term of six years with an option of extending the collective bargaining agreement for an additional year at the end of the term, allowing the league to resume as of the 2005–06 season.[55]

On October 5, 2005, the first post-lockout season took to the ice with all 30 teams. The NHL received record attendance in the 2005–06 season: an average of 16,955 per game.[56] The League's TV audience was slower to rebound because of American cable broadcaster ESPN's decision to drop the sport.[57] The league's post-lockout agreement with NBC gave the league a share of revenue from each game's advertising sales, rather than the usual lump sum paid up front for game rights. The league's annual revenues were estimated at approximately $2.27 billion.[57]

At midnight September 16, 2012, the labour pact expired, and the league again locked out the players.[58] The owners proposed reducing the players' share of hockey-related revenues from 57 percent to 47 percent.[59] All games were cancelled up to January 14, 2013, as well as the 2013 NHL Winter Classic and the 2013 NHL All-Star Weekend.[60][61][62][63] A tentative agreement was reached on January 6, 2013, on a ten-year deal.[64] On January 12, the league and the Players' Association signed a memorandum of understanding on the new deal, allowing teams to begin their training camps on January 13, with a shortened 48-game season schedule that began on January 19.[65]

Player safety issues

Player safety has become a major issue, with concussions – a result from a hard hit to the head – being the primary concern. Recent studies have shown how the consequences of concussions can last beyond player retirement. This has significant effects on the league as elite players have suffered from the aftereffects of concussions, such as Sidney Crosby being sidelined for approximately 10 and a half months, which adversely affects the league's marketability.[66] In December 2009, Brendan Shanahan was hired to replace Colin Campbell and given the role of senior vice-president of player safety. Shanahan began to hand out suspensions on high-profile perpetrators responsible for dangerous hits, such as Raffi Torres receiving 25 games for his hit on Marian Hossa.[67]

To aid with removing high speed collisions on icing, which had led to several potential career-ending injuries such as Hurricanes' defenceman Joni Pitkanen, the league mandated hybrid no-touch icing for the 2013–14 NHL season.[68]

On November 25, 2013, ten former players (Gary Leeman, Rick Vaive, Brad Aitken, Darren Banks, Curt Bennett, Richie Dunn, Warren Holmes, Bob Manno, Blair Stewart and Morris Titanic) sued the league for negligence on protecting players from concussions. The suit came three months after the National Football League agreed to pay former players US$765 million due to a player safety lawsuit.[69]

Women in the NHL

From 1952 to 1955, Marguerite Norris served as president of the Detroit Red Wings, the first woman NHL executive and the first woman to have her name engraved on the Stanley Cup. In 1992, Manon Rheaume became the first woman to play a game in any of the major professional North American sports leagues, as a goaltender for the Tampa Bay Lightning in an NHL pre-season game against the St. Louis Blues, stopping seven of nine shots.[70][71] In 2016, Dawn Braid was hired as the Arizona Coyotes' skating coach, making her the first female full-time coach in the NHL.[72] The first female referees in the NHL were hired in a test-run during the league's preseason prospect tournaments in September 2019.[73]

In 2016, the NHL hosted the 2016 Outdoor Women's Classic, an exhibition game between the Boston Pride of the National Women's Hockey League and Les Canadiennes of the Canadian Women's Hockey League, as part of the 2016 NHL Winter Classic weekend festivities.[74] In 2019, the NHL invited four women from the US and Canadian Olympic teams to demonstrate the events in All-Star skills competition before the All-Star Game. Due to Nathan MacKinnon choosing not to participate following a bruised ankle, Team USA's Kendall Coyne Schofield competed in the Fastest Skater competition in his place becoming the first woman to officially compete in the NHL's All-Star festivities.[75] The attention led the NHL to include a 3-on-3 women's game before the 2020 All-Star Game.[76]

National Hockey League History articles: 124

Organizational structure

Board of Governors

The Board of Governors is the ruling and governing body of the National Hockey League. In this context, each team is a member of the league, and each member appoints a Governor (usually the owner of the club), and two alternates to the Board. The current chairman of the Board is Boston Bruins owner, Jeremy Jacobs. The Board of Governors exists to establish the policies of the league, and to uphold its constitution. Some of the responsibilities of the Board of Governors include:[77]

  • review and approve any changes to the league's rules.
  • hiring and firing of the commissioner.
  • review and approve the purchase, sale, or relocation of any member club.
  • review and approve the salary caps for member clubs.
  • review and approve any changes to the structure of the game schedule.

The Board of Governors meets twice per year, in the months of June and December, with the exact date and place to be fixed by the Commissioner.


The chief executive of the league is Commissioner Gary Bettman. Some of the principal decision makers who serve under the authority of the commissioner include:

  • Deputy Commissioner & Chief Legal Officer: Bill Daly
  • Executive VP & CFO: Craig Harnett
  • Chief Operating Officer: Steve McArdle
  • Executive VP & Director of Hockey Operations: Colin Campbell
  • NHL Enterprises: Ed Horne
  • Senior Vice-President of Player Safety: George Parros[78]

National Hockey League Organizational structure articles: 6


The NHL consists of 31 teams, 24 of which are based in the United States and seven in Canada. The NHL divides the 31 teams into two conferences: the Eastern Conference and the Western Conference. Each conference is split into two divisions: the Eastern Conference contains 16 teams (eight per division), while the Western Conference has 15 teams (seven in the Central Division and eight in the Pacific Division). The current alignment has existed since the 2017–18 season.

The number of NHL teams held constant at 30 teams from the 2000–01 season when the Minnesota Wild and the Columbus Blue Jackets joined the league as expansion teams, until 2017. That expansion capped a period in the 1990s of rapid expansion and relocation when the NHL added nine teams to grow from 21 to 30 teams, and relocated four teams mostly from smaller, northern cities (e.g., Hartford, Quebec) to larger, warmer metropolitan areas (e.g., Dallas, Phoenix). The league has not contracted any teams since the Cleveland Barons folded in 1978. The league expanded for the first time in 17 years[79] to 31 teams in 2017 with the addition of the Vegas Golden Knights[52] and then approved a 32nd team in Seattle that will begin playing in the 2021–22 season.[53][80]

According to Forbes, in 2019, all five of the most valuable teams were "Original Six" teams: the New York Rangers at approximately $1.65 billion, the Toronto Maple Leafs at $1.5 billion, the Montreal Canadiens at $1.34 billion, the Chicago Blackhawks at $1.08 billion, and the Boston Bruins at $1 billion.[81][82] At least seven NHL clubs operate at a loss.[83] NHL teams are susceptible to the Canadian–U.S. exchange rate: revenue from tickets, local and national advertising in Canada, and local and national Canadian media rights are collected in Canadian dollars, but all players' salaries are paid in U.S. dollars regardless of whether a team is located in Canada or the U.S.[84]

List of teams

Division Team City Arena Capacity Founded Joined General manager Head coach Captain
Eastern Conference
Atlantic Boston Bruins Boston, Massachusetts TD Garden 17,850 1924 Don Sweeney Bruce Cassidy Zdeno Chara
Buffalo Sabres Buffalo, New York KeyBank Center 19,070 1970 Kevyn Adams Ralph Krueger Jack Eichel
Detroit Red Wings Detroit, Michigan Little Caesars Arena 19,515 1926 Steve Yzerman Jeff Blashill Vacant
Florida Panthers Sunrise, Florida BB&T Center 19,250 1993 Dale Tallon Joel Quenneville Aleksander Barkov
Montreal Canadiens Montreal, Quebec Bell Centre 21,302 1909 1917 Marc Bergevin Claude Julien Shea Weber
Ottawa Senators Ottawa, Ontario Canadian Tire Centre 18,652 1992 Pierre Dorion D. J. Smith Vacant
Tampa Bay Lightning Tampa, Florida Amalie Arena 19,092 1992 Julien BriseBois Jon Cooper Steven Stamkos
Toronto Maple Leafs Toronto, Ontario Scotiabank Arena 18,819 1917 Kyle Dubas Sheldon Keefe John Tavares
Metropolitan Carolina Hurricanes Raleigh, North Carolina PNC Arena 18,680 1972 1979* Don Waddell Rod Brind'Amour Jordan Staal
Columbus Blue Jackets Columbus, Ohio Nationwide Arena 18,144 2000 Jarmo Kekalainen John Tortorella Nick Foligno
New Jersey Devils Newark, New Jersey Prudential Center 16,514 1974* Tom Fitzgerald Lindy Ruff Vacant
New York Islanders Uniondale, New York Nassau Coliseum 13,900 1972 Lou Lamoriello Barry Trotz Anders Lee
New York Rangers New York City, New York Madison Square Garden 18,006 1926 Jeff Gorton David Quinn Vacant
Philadelphia Flyers Philadelphia, Pennsylvania Wells Fargo Center 19,500 1967 Chuck Fletcher Alain Vigneault Claude Giroux
Pittsburgh Penguins Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania PPG Paints Arena 18,387 1967 Jim Rutherford Mike Sullivan Sidney Crosby
Washington Capitals Washington, D.C. Capital One Arena 18,506 1974 Brian MacLellan Todd Reirden Alexander Ovechkin
Western Conference
Central Chicago Blackhawks Chicago, Illinois United Center 19,717 1926 Stan Bowman Jeremy Colliton Jonathan Toews
Colorado Avalanche Denver, Colorado Pepsi Center 18,007 1972 1979* Joe Sakic Jared Bednar Gabriel Landeskog
Dallas Stars Dallas, Texas American Airlines Center 18,532 1967* Jim Nill Rick Bowness Jamie Benn
Minnesota Wild Saint Paul, Minnesota Xcel Energy Center 17,954 2000 Bill Guerin Dean Evason Mikko Koivu
Nashville Predators Nashville, Tennessee Bridgestone Arena 17,113 1998 David Poile John Hynes Roman Josi
St. Louis Blues St. Louis, Missouri Enterprise Center 18,724 1967 Doug Armstrong Craig Berube Alex Pietrangelo
Winnipeg Jets Winnipeg, Manitoba Bell MTS Place 15,321 1999* Kevin Cheveldayoff Paul Maurice Blake Wheeler
Pacific Anaheim Ducks Anaheim, California Honda Center 17,174 1993 Bob Murray Dallas Eakins Ryan Getzlaf
Arizona Coyotes[nb 3] Glendale, Arizona Gila River Arena 17,125 1972 1979* John Chayka Rick Tocchet Oliver Ekman-Larsson
Calgary Flames Calgary, Alberta Scotiabank Saddledome 19,289 1972* Brad Treliving Geoff Ward Mark Giordano
Edmonton Oilers Edmonton, Alberta Rogers Place 18,347 1972 1979 Ken Holland Dave Tippett Connor McDavid
Los Angeles Kings Los Angeles, California Staples Center 18,230 1967 Rob Blake Todd McLellan Anze Kopitar
San Jose Sharks San Jose, California SAP Center 17,562 1991 Doug Wilson Bob Boughner Logan Couture
Vancouver Canucks Vancouver, British Columbia Rogers Arena 18,910 1945 1970 Jim Benning Travis Green Bo Horvat
Vegas Golden Knights Paradise, Nevada T-Mobile Arena 17,356 2017 Kelly McCrimmon Peter DeBoer Vacant


Division Team City Arena Capacity Founded Joined General manager Head coach Captain
Pacific Seattle Seattle, Washington Climate Pledge Arena 17,100 2021 Ron Francis TBD TBD
  1. An asterisk (*) denotes a franchise move. See the respective team articles for more information.
  2. The Edmonton Oilers, Hartford Whalers (now Carolina Hurricanes), Quebec Nordiques (now Colorado Avalanche), and original Winnipeg Jets (now Arizona Coyotes) all joined the NHL in 1979 as part of the NHL–WHA merger.


National Hockey League Teams articles: 172