- Founding and Expansion
The NHL was established in Montreal, Quebec, Canada, on November 26, 1917, as a replacement for the recently disbanded National Hockey Association (NHA). Initially, the NHL had four teams: the Montreal Canadiens, Montreal Wanderers, Ottawa Senators, and Toronto Arenas. The league expanded to the United States in the 1920s and by the late 1940s, the league consisted of the “Original Six” teams: the Montreal Canadiens, Toronto Maple Leafs, Boston Bruins, New York Rangers, Detroit Red Wings, and Chicago Blackhawks. Significant expansion began in 1967 when the league doubled in size to 12 teams.
Since then, the NHL has continued to expand and as of my last update in September 2021, the league consists of 32 teams: 25 in the United States and 7 in Canada.
- NHL Structure
The NHL is divided into two conferences, each consisting of two divisions. The Eastern Conference includes the Atlantic and Metropolitan Divisions, while the Western Conference has the Central and Pacific Divisions. Teams play a combination of games against divisional opponents, conference opponents, and inter-conference opponents throughout the regular season, with the goal of qualifying for the playoffs.
- The Stanley Cup
The ultimate prize in the NHL is the Stanley Cup, awarded annually to the playoff champion. The playoffs typically start in April and can run into early June. The playoffs are a best-of-seven series elimination tournament, with teams needing to win four rounds (a total of 16 games) to capture the Stanley Cup.
- Notable Players
The NHL has been home to many of the greatest players in hockey history, including Wayne Gretzky, Mario Lemieux, Gordie Howe, Bobby Orr, Maurice Richard, and more recently players like Sidney Crosby, Alex Ovechkin, and Connor McDavid.
- International Influence
Over time, the NHL has become more international, with players from Europe, Russia, and other parts of the world making significant contributions. This has helped spread the popularity of the game globally.