2017 NHL History - Hockey History - NHL Hockey History - National Hockey League - NHL - The Stanley Cup

Learn More About the NHL and Hockey


The National Hockey League is the association that runs and governs the highest level of professional ice hockey in the United States and Canada. The game is competitive, exciting, and fun to watch for enthusiasts and new fans alike. The League consists of 30 teams, 6 of which are located in cities in Canada, and 24 within the United States. It features players from over 20 countries. The teams compete every year for the Stanley Cup, which is awarded to the championship team.

The NHL was organized in 1917 and is an off-shoot of the National Hockey Association. The NHL started with what is now known as the original 6 teams, and has since expanded to its current size of 30 teams. The original 6 teams were the Boston Bruins, Montreal Canadians, Toronto Maple Leafs, New York Rangers, Chicago Blackhawks, and the Detroit Red Wings.

The 30 teams are broken into 2 conferences, the Eastern and Western conferences. Within each conference, there are three divisions, each having 5 teams. The Eastern conference has the Northeast, Atlantic, and Southeast divisions, while the Western conference has the Northwest, Central, and Pacific divisions. Among the 30 current teams, the Montreal Canadians have won the most Stanley Cup championships, with 24 titles. A distant second in Stanley Cup titles goes to the Toronto Maple Leafs, who have won the title 13 times.

The Stanley Cup is arguably the best known trophy in all of sports, and it is the oldest. It is also known as Lord Stanley’s Cup, and was originally donated in 1892 by Lord Stanley Preston, the Governor General of Canada. At that time, the cup was awarded to the best amateur club in Canada, but the cup is now awarded to the NHL champion.

Probably the best known player of all time is Wayne Gretzky, nicknamed "The Great One". He played with the Edmonton Oilers from 1979 until 1988, and he then played for the Los Angeles Kings, St. Louis Blues, and the New York Rangers before retiring in 1999. Gretzky set numerous records during his years of play, and he also won 4 Stanley Cup titles during his time as a player.

Games are 60 minutes long, which is split into three 20 minute periods, each followed by a 17 minute intermission. There are 5 men on the ice for each team, along with 1 goalie. When a penalty is called on a player, that player goes into the penalty box and the opposing team gets a power play. The penalty time is 2 minutes for a minor penalty, but the player will be released from the penalty box before the 2 minutes is up if the opposing team scores during their power play opportunity.

Teams play 82 regular season games each year, with those games evenly split, playing 41 games at home and 41 on the road. Each team plays 24 games within their division, 6 against each time in that division. Points are awarded after each game, with the winner earning 2 points. A loss is not awarded any points if the game ends in regulation, but the losing team is awarded 1 point if they lose in overtime or in a shootout. To determine the teams for the playoffs, the winning team from each division (the one with the most points), along with the next 5 highest point-getters, are given spots in the playoffs. The teams are seeded based on their point totals from the regular season.

After a lock-out during the 2004-2005 season, NHL hockey underwent some major rule changes, aimed to make the game more exciting and fast-paced for viewers. The biggest rule change included adding a shoot-out, which occurs after a short 5 minute overtime if the score is still tied, leading to an exciting ending to many regular season games.

NHL hockey has a long and storied history, and is considered to be one of the big 4 professional sports in North America. The popularity of the league and of the sport continues to grow, gaining new fans seemingly all the time.

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