National Hockey League

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"NHL" redirects here. For other uses, see NHL (disambiguation).
The modernized NHL shield logo, debuting in 2005.  It is thought that the silver color is taken from the Stanley Cup, the trophy awarded to its champions.
The modernized NHL shield logo, debuting in 2005. It is thought that the silver color is taken from the Stanley Cup, the trophy awarded to its champions.

The National Hockey League (NHL) is a professional sports organization composed of hockey teams in the United States and Canada, where it is also known by its French name, Ligue Nationale de Hockey (LNH). It is generally regarded as the premier professional ice hockey league in the world. The NHL is often listed as one of the major professional sports leagues of North America.



The beginnings to The Original Six

This article is part of the Evolution of the NHL series.

The National Hockey League was founded in 1917 after a series of disputes within the (Canadian) National Hockey Association (NHA). The first NHL season began in 1917-18 with five teams.

The classic NHL shield logo, used until the end of the 2004 lockout.
The classic NHL shield logo, used until the end of the 2004 lockout.

The primary conflict involved Toronto Blueshirts' owner Edward J. Livingstone. An ongoing source of controversy among fellow NHA owners, he was often accused of exploiting loopholes in league regulations to create what some viewed as unfair advantages, and had particularly incited the wrath of owners when he merged his two Toronto teams (the Ontarios and the Blueshirts) after the latter had been deprived of its top players. Livingstone sometimes offered contracts to other teams' members not to play hockey, and once campaigned to kick the Montreal Wanderers out of the league after the team tried to lure two of his top Blueshirts players. Throughout his battles with owners, Livingstone repeatedly threatened to start a rival league in the United States.

In its final season (1916-17), the National Hockey Association was comprised of six teams: The Montreal Canadiens, Montreal Wanderers, Ottawa Senators, Quebec Bulldogs, Toronto Blueshirts, and an army team from the Toronto-based 228th Battalion. Owners met in Montreal to consider the league's future on February 11, 1917, a day after members of the 228th Battalion, the most popular NHA team, were called into World War I action. Livingstone, unable to attend the meeting because of illness, was shocked to learn that owners had chosen to effectively eject him and the Blueshirts from the NHA.

After the resignation of NHA president and Livingstone ally Frank Robinson, Livingstone stopped attending league meetings and sent a lawyer to represent his interests. When owners convened on September 29, 1917, they demanded that Livingstone sell the Blueshirts within five days. Livingstone then negotiated a deal in which the Toronto Arena Gardens would take control of the Blueshirts' daily business, with Livingstone to eventually regain control if the NHA continued operations. In response, NHA owners met at Montreal's Windsor Hotel on November 26, 1917, and formed the National Hockey League, with the Canadiens, Wanderers, Senators, Bulldogs and newly-renamed Toronto Arenas as founding members.

The NHL endured a rocky inaugural season in 1917-18, starting with the temporary shuttering of the Bulldogs. On January 2, 1918, the Westmount Arena in Montreal, home to the Wanderers and Canadiens, was destroyed in a fire. The Wanderers, already a shadow of its former self, folded in the wake of the fire, ending one of the most storied franchises in the early years of Canadian professional hockey. With the Bulldogs and Wanderers out, the NHL operated with just three teams for the remainder of its opening year, and through the second season. Though Livingstone had been shut out, one of his NHA ideas — a proposal for a split regular season — was adopted by the new league and integrated into its playoff system. The Toronto Arenas became the first NHL winner of the Stanley Cup, the annual trophy awarded since 1893 to the Canadian hockey champion. A furious Livingstone, meanwhile, failed in his attempt to collect a share of profits from the Arenas, then sued the team and the NHL. The dispute lingered through the 1930s, with the Arenas since renamed the Toronto St. Patricks and ultimately the Toronto Maple Leafs. History has looked back on Livingstone and the NHL's formation with a sense of irony: The man whom league owners had worked so hard to exclude was, in the words of Canadiens owner George Kennedy, the same figure that "made [the NHL] a real league".

Though the league struggled to stay in the business during its first decade, NHL teams were quite successful on the ice, winning the Stanley Cup seven out of its first nine years. (The 1918-19 competition was cancelled because of the Spanish Flu epidemic that had hit Seattle). By 1926, having increased player salaries to a level that couldn't be matched by other Canadian leagues, the NHL was alone in Stanley Cup competition. The league had also expanded into the United States, with the Boston Bruins in 1924, the New York Americans and the Pittsburgh Pirates in 1925 and the New York Rangers, Detroit Cougars (later to become the Red Wings), and Chicago Blackhawks in 1926. By the end of the 1930-31 season, the NHL featured a total of 10 teams. However, the Great Depression took a toll on the league; teams such as the Pirates and the Americans folded, and even the fabled Ottawa Senators were forced to fold after moving to St. Louis because of financial difficulties. With these developments and the onset of World War II, the NHL was reduced to six teams during its 25th anniversary year of (1942) – six teams still known today, if somewhat inaccurately, as the Original Six: The Canadiens, Maple Leafs, Red Wings, Bruins, Rangers, and Blackhawks. World War II had provided many players their first chance to play professional hockey, but after the war, many found themselves relegated to minor leagues.

Expansion: 1967 and beyond

Minor leagues, especially in the western United States, often fielded teams that arguably could have defeated Stanley Cup champions. The rise of the Western Hockey League, which many pundits thought planned to transform into a major league and challenge for the Stanley Cup, spurred the NHL in 1967 to undertake its first expansion since the 1920s. Six new teams were added to the NHL roster, and placed in their own newly-created division. They were the Philadelphia Flyers, St. Louis Blues, Minnesota North Stars, Los Angeles Kings, Oakland Seals, and Pittsburgh Penguins. Three years later, the NHL added the Vancouver Canucks and Buffalo Sabres as franchises.

In 1972, the World Hockey Association (WHA) was formed. Though it never challenged for the Stanley Cup, its status as a viable NHL rival was unquestionable. In response to that, the NHL decided to rush its own expansion plans by adding the New York Islanders and Atlanta Flames that year, along with the Kansas City Scouts and Washington Capitals two years later. The dilution of the talent pool, however, caused the overall quality of play to suffer. Additionally, the rising dominance of Soviet-style hockey revealed stark differences in the relatively lesser abilities of the mostly Canadian players who made up the NHL and WHA. The two leagues fought for the services of hockey players and fans until the WHA folded in 1979. Four of the remaining six WHA teams merged with the NHL: The Hartford Whalers, Québec Nordiques, Edmonton Oilers, and Winnipeg Jets. As of 2005, the Oilers are the last remaining original WHA franchise to still be in the city where they began in the NHL.

Labour Issues

There have been three work stoppages in NHL history. The first was a strike by the National Hockey League Players Association (NHLPA) in April 1992, which lasted for 10 days. (Though the strike began towards the season's end, it was settled quickly enough for affected games to be rescheduled.)

A lockout at the start of the 1994-95 season proved far more disruptive, lasting three months and forcing the league to reduce the schedule from 84 to 48 games. Teams played exclusively intra-conference games during the lockout-shortened season. The resulting collective bargaining agreement (CBA) was set for renegotiation in 1998, and the agreement was eventually extended to last until September 15, 2004.

Negotiations for a new agreement, launched in 2004 to replace the expiring 1995 deal, turned into one of the most contentious collective bargaining sessions in the history of professional sports. The league vowed to install what it dubbed "cost certainty" for its teams. The NHLPA countered that the move was little more than a euphemism for a salary cap, which the union initially said it would not accept. With no new agreement in hand when the existing contract expired on September 15, 2004, league commissioner Gary Bettman announced a lockout of the players union and cessation of operations by the NHL head office. Eventually, the 2004-05 NHL season was cancelled, and the NHL became the first major North American sports league in history to lose an entire season because of labour disputes. In July 2005, a new collective bargaining agreement was ratified, allowing the NHL to resume in the 2005-06 season.

Post Lockout

On oct 5th 2005 the post-lockout NHL season got under way with 15 games and 11 out of those 15 were in front of sell out crowds. The NHL, Despite criticism/ignorance from the media, continues its success throughout the whole month. The NHL continues to grow its fan bases in non-traditional markets in the US like Nashville, Atlanta, and Carolina.

Trophies and awards

The National Hockey League also presents numerous trophies, in addition to the Stanley Cup for the overall playoff champion, as well as the Clarence S. Campbell Bowl for the Western Conference playoff champions and the Prince of Wales Trophy for the Eastern Conference playoff champions. They include:

The O'Brien Trophy was awarded in the NHL before it was retired following the 1949-50 NHL season.

The Lester Patrick Trophy has been presented by the National Hockey League since 1966 to honour a recipient's contribution to hockey in the United States.

Three years after retirement, players are eligible to be voted into the Hockey Hall of Fame. In the past, if a player was deemed significant enough, the pending period would be waived. However, only 10 individual have been honoured in this manner. In 1999 Wayne Gretzky became the last player to have the three years waived. After Gretzky's induction, the NHL declared that he would be the last one to have the waiting period omitted.

The Pearson Award is the only award named after a politician.

Current organization

Eastern Conference

Northeast Division Atlantic Division Southeast Division

Boston Bruins

New Jersey Devils

Atlanta Thrashers

Buffalo Sabres

New York Islanders

Carolina Hurricanes

Montreal Canadiens

New York Rangers

Florida Panthers

Ottawa Senators

Philadelphia Flyers

Tampa Bay Lightning

Toronto Maple Leafs

Pittsburgh Penguins

Washington Capitals

Western Conference

Northwest Division Central Division Pacific Division

Calgary Flames

Chicago Blackhawks

Mighty Ducks of Anaheim

Colorado Avalanche

Columbus Blue Jackets

Dallas Stars

Edmonton Oilers

Detroit Red Wings

Los Angeles Kings

Minnesota Wild

Nashville Predators

Phoenix Coyotes

Vancouver Canucks

St. Louis Blues

San Jose Sharks


Each team in the NHL plays 82 regular season games, 41 games at home and 41 on the road. Teams used to play all other teams in the league at least once, but this will no longer be the case following implementation of post-lockout changes. Teams will now play 10 interconference (that is, not in their own conference) games throughout the entire season, 1 game against each team in two of the three divisions in the opposite conference. Teams will also play 40 games against non-divisional, conference opponents (4 games against each), and 32 games within their division (8 games against each). Two points are awarded for wins, one point for losing in overtime or a shootout, and zero points for a loss in regulation time. At the end of the regular season, the team that finishes with the most points in each division is crowned the division champion. Each Conference consists of three divisions, so these three division champions and five more teams fill out each Conference's playoff field. In total, 16 teams (3 division champions and 5 additional teams, for a total of 8 from each Conference) qualify for the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

The Stanley Cup Playoffs is an elimination tournament, where two teams battle to win a best-of-seven series in order to advance to the next round. If the score is tied at the end of the third period an overtime period is played. If the score is tied at the end of an overtime period, additional overtime periods are played until a winner is determined. Overtimes are also full periods of twenty minutes (of five-on-five hockey), rather than the five minutes (of four-on-four hockey, followed by a shootout) in the regular season. The overtime is played with golden goal rule (sudden death) so the game ends as soon as either team scores a goal. The higher-ranked team is said to be the team with the home-ice advantage. Four of the seven games are played at this team's home venue - the first and second, and, where necessary, the fifth and seventh, with the other games played at the lower-ranked team's home venue.

The most recent playoff that was contested in the NHL used the following format: the division winners were seeded one through three, and then the next five teams with the best records in the conference were seeded four through eight. However, the league has yet to announce the playoff format for the 2005-06 season, and with the new scheduling format that emphasises division play, the league is reportedly exploring placing greater emphasis on division standings by taking the top 2 teams in each division, along with the teams with the next two best records for each Conference's playoff field. In the event of a tie in points in the standings, ties are broken first by amount of wins, then by record against the team that is tied (disregarding the first game played at the arena of the team that hosted more games than the other during the season series, if applicable). Next, the tied team with the better positive differential between goals scored for and against is given preference, and in the rare circumstance these tiebreakers are insufficient, the Commissioner has the authority to devise some other means of breaking the tie. The first round of the playoffs, or Conference Quarterfinals, consists of the first seed playing the eighth seed, the second playing the seventh, third playing the sixth, and the fourth playing the fifth. In the Conference Semifinals, the top remaining Conference seed plays against the fourth remaining seed, and the second remaining seed plays the third remaining seed. In the next round, the Conference Finals, the two remaining teams in each conference play each other, with the Conference champions proceeding to the Stanley Cup Finals.

Presidents/Commissioners of the NHL

See also

External links

National Hockey League 1917 to present
Current teams : Anaheim | Atlanta | Boston | Buffalo | Calgary | Carolina | Chicago | Colorado | Columbus | Dallas | Detroit | Edmonton | Florida | Los Angeles | Minnesota | Montreal | Nashville | New Jersey | NY Islanders | NY Rangers | Ottawa | Philadelphia | Phoenix | Pittsburgh | San Jose | St. Louis | Tampa Bay | Toronto | Vancouver | Washington
Trophies and awards: Stanley Cup | Prince of Wales | Clarence S. Campbell | Presidents' Trophy | Adams | Art Ross | Calder | Conn Smythe | Crozier | Hart | Jennings | King Clancy | Lady Byng | Masterton | Norris | Patrick | Pearson | Plus/Minus | Rocket Richard | Selke | Vezina
Related articles: AHL | ECHL | UHL | WHA | International Hockey
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