NHL Growth

The National Hockey League (NHL) officially started in 1917 with the establishment of four franchises, though most of the franchises were operating in a predecessor league before that year.

This is a list of seasons of the National Hockey League (NHL), a professional ice hockey league, since its inception in 1917. The list also includes the seasons of the National Hockey Association (NHA), the predecessor organization of the NHL, which had several teams that would continue play in the NHL.

Only two franchises, Montreal and Toronto, still exist from the founding of the league. The Quebec Bulldogs, which suspended after the last NHA season, returned to play in the third NHL season, although they were considered founding members of the NHL. The team would be moved by the league to Hamilton, and eventually dissolved by the league in 1925. The original Ottawa Senators would continue in the league until 1935, where, after one season in St. Louis as the St. Louis Eagles, the franchise was dissolved by the league. The current Ottawa Senators franchise does recognize the history of the original Senators (through retired numbers and a heritage jersey).

The list is sub-divided using the same eras as the series of articles on the History of the National Hockey League.

Championship format

Like predecessor leagues, the champion of the NHA league since its founding was the team with the best regular season record, with a playoff only used if more than one team had the best win-loss record. This changed in 1917 with the invention of the split-season, whereby the champion became the winner of the annual playoff. The NHL continued the split-season and playoff format upon the winding up of the NHA organization. Except for the 1919–20 season, where there was no playoff because Ottawa won both halves of the season, the champion of the NHL has been the playoff champion.

The NHA champion was awarded the O'Brien Cup. This was continued by the NHL. Until 1927, the NHL champion was awarded the O'Brien Cup, supplemented by the Prince of Wales Trophy, starting in 1925. To win the Stanley Cup, the NHL champion had to play off in a "world's series" with the champion of the Pacific Coast or Western hockey leagues. After 1927, the NHL playoff champion was awarded the Stanley Cup, while the O'Brien Cup and Prince of Wales Trophy were reused as division championship and playoff runner-up awards.

National Hockey Association

Hockey seasons traditionally started in January and ended in March until the 1910–11 season which was the first to start before the new year. The 1911–12 season saw the elimination of the rover position, reducing number of skaters per side to six. The 1916–17 season saw the introduction of the split schedule, an innovation attributed to Toronto NHA owner Eddie Livingstone. To symbolize the league championship, the NHA champion was awarded the O'Brien Cup, donated by the O'Brien family, owners of silver mines (being the source of the silver in the trophy), owners of several of the NHA franchises, and original owner of the Montreal Canadiens.

Season Final [4a, b, c] No. of
Reg. season
(begin reg. season)
(incl. NHA playoffs)
Top record Champion
1910 1910 7 12 January 5 March 15 Montreal Wanderers (11–1–0) Montreal Wanderers
1910–11 1911 5 16 December 31 March 10 Ottawa Hockey Club (13–3–0) Ottawa Hockey Club
1911–12 1912 4 18 December 30 March 5 Quebec Bulldogs (10–8–0) Quebec Bulldogs
1912–13 1913 6 20 December 25 March 5 Quebec Bulldogs (16–4–0) Quebec Bulldogs
1913–14 1914 6 20 December 27 March 11 Toronto Blueshirts, Montreal Canadiens (13–7–0)[2] Toronto Blueshirts
1914–15 1915 6 20 December 26 March 13 Ottawa Senators (14–6–0) Vancouver Millionaires [1]
1915–16 1916 5 24 December 18 March 18 Montreal Canadiens (16–7–1) Montreal Canadiens
1916–17 1917 6/4 [3] 20 December 27 March 10 Montreal Canadiens (7–3–0) (1st half)
Ottawa Senators (8–2–0) (2nd half)
Montreal Canadiens [1][5]

^ 1. All champion teams are also Stanley Cup champions unless marked.
^ 2. The league did not use tiebreakers to determine the top record. The two teams played off to determine the championship.
^ 3. Toronto and Battalion did not participate in the second half.
^ 4a. No Finals prior to 1914; Stanley Cup awarded to league winners and defended on a challenge basis.
^ 4b. Finals in 1915 and 1916 contested between top two teams of regular season.
^ 4c. Finals from 1917 through 1921 contested between qualifier from first half-season and qualifier from second half-season.

Early years

The NHL started with three of the six NHA clubs (Montreal Canadiens, Montreal Wanderers and Ottawa Senators) and a Toronto franchise run by the Toronto Arena Co., which leased the players of the Toronto Blueshirts. Almost immediately after starting the season, the Wanderers folded, leaving three teams to complete the season. The same three teams returned for 1918–19 before Quebec 'returned' for 1919–20, moving to Hamilton the following year. The same four-team configuration lasted until 1924–25 when the Montreal Maroons and the Boston Bruins joined the league. Expansion into other cities followed, lasting until the 1930s, when several teams folded.

The new NHL did not have a championship trophy at first. The O'Brien Cup was revived in November 1921, and served as the league championship trophy until 1927. The new Prince of Wales Trophy, donated in 1925, was also given to the league champion until 1927. Henceforth, the trophies were designated for divisional championships, and the Stanley Cup became the de facto league championship trophy.

No. Season Playoffs Stanley Cup
Finals [4c]
No. of
Reg. season
(reg. season)
(incl. NHL playoffs)
Top record Champion
1 1917–18 1918 [1] 1918 4/3[5] 22 December 19 March 13 Montreal Canadiens (10–4–0) (1st half)
Toronto Hockey Club (5–3–0) (2nd half)
Toronto Hockey Club
2 1918–19 1919 1919 3 18 December 19 March 6 Montreal Canadiens (7–3–0) (1st half)
Ottawa Senators (7–1–0) (2nd half)
Montreal Canadiens [1]
3 1919–20 1920 1920 4[6] 24 December 23 March 10 [7] Ottawa Senators (9–3–0) (1st half)
Ottawa Senators (10–2–0) (2nd half)
Ottawa Senators
4 1920–21 1921 1921 4 24 December 22 March 15 Ottawa Senators (8–2–0) (1st half)
Toronto St. Pats (10–4–0) (2nd half)
Ottawa Senators
5 1921–22 1922 1922 4 24 December 17 March 13 Ottawa Senators (14–8–2) Toronto St. Pats
6 1922–23 1923 1923 4 24 December 16 March 9 Ottawa Senators (14–9–1) Ottawa Senators
7 1923–24 1924 1924 4 24 December 15 March 11 Ottawa Senators (16–8–0) Montreal Canadiens
8 1924–25 1925 1925 6[8] 30 November 29 March 13 Hamilton Tigers (19–10–1) Montreal Canadiens [1]
9 1925–26 1926 1926 7[9] 36 November 28 March 27 Ottawa Senators (24–8–4) Montreal Maroons
10 1926–27 1927 1927 10[10] 44 November 18 April 13 Ottawa Senators (30–10–4) Ottawa Senators
11 1927–28 1928 1928 10 44 November 15 April 14 Montreal Canadiens (26–11–7) New York Rangers
12 1928–29 1929 1929 10 44 November 15 March 29 Montreal Canadiens (22–7–15) Boston Bruins
13 1929–30 1930 1930 10 44 November 14 April 3 Boston Bruins (38–5–1) Montreal Canadiens
14 1930–31 1931 1931 10 44 November 11 April 14 Boston Bruins (28–10–6) Montreal Canadiens
15 1931–32 1932 1932 8[11] 48 November 12 April 9 Montreal Canadiens (25–16–7) Toronto Maple Leafs
16 1932–33 1933 1933 9[12] 48 November 10 April 13 Boston Bruins (25–15–8) New York Rangers
17 1933–34 1934 1934 9 48 November 9 April 10 Toronto Maple Leafs (26–13–9) Chicago Black Hawks
18 1934–35 1935 1935 9 48 November 8 April 9 Toronto Maple Leafs (30–14–4) Montreal Maroons
19 1935–36 1936 1936 8[13] 48 November 7 April 11 Detroit Red Wings (24–16–8) Detroit Red Wings
20 1936–37 1937 1937 8 48 November 5 April 15 Detroit Red Wings (25–14–9) Detroit Red Wings
21 1937–38 1938 1938 8 48 November 4 April 12 Boston Bruins (30–11–7) Chicago Black Hawks
22 1938–39 1939 1939 7[14] 48 November 3 April 16 Boston Bruins (36–10–2) Boston Bruins
23 1939–40 1940 1940 7 48 November 2 April 13 Boston Bruins (31–12–5) New York Rangers
24 1940–41 1941 1941 7 48 November 3 April 12 Boston Bruins (27–8–13) Boston Bruins
25 1941–42 1942 1942 7 48 November 1 April 18 New York Rangers (29–17–2) Toronto Maple Leafs
The Montreal Canadiens host the Toronto Maple Leafs in 1938
^ 1. All champion teams are also Stanley Cup champions unless marked.
^ 4c. Finals from 1917 through 1921 contested between qualifier from first half-season and qualifier from second half-season.
^ 5. Wanderers withdrew after six games (four completed, two forfeited).
^ 6. The Quebec Bulldogs started play.
^ 7. No playoffs.
^ 8. The Montreal Maroons and Boston Bruins started play.
^ 9. The New York Americans and Pittsburgh Pirates started play. Hamilton Tigers dissolved.
^ 10. The Chicago Black Hawks, Detroit Cougars and New York Rangers started play.
^ 11. The Ottawa Senators and Philadelphia Quakers suspended operations for the season.
^ 12. The Ottawa Senators resumed play.
^ 13. The St. Louis Eagles were dissolved.
^ 14. The Montreal Maroons were dissolved.

Original Six era

Prior to the 1942–43 season, the New York Americans suspended operations. This reduced the number of teams to six, starting the 'Original Six' era. During the Original Six era, the NHL played in a single six-team division. Each season, four of the six teams qualified for the playoffs to determine the Stanley Cup and NHL champion.

No. Season Playoffs Finals Reg. season
(reg. season)
(incl. playoffs)
Top record Champion
26 1942–43 1943 1943 50 October 31 April 8 Detroit Red Wings (25–14–11) Detroit Red Wings
27 1943–44 1944 1944 50 October 30 April 13 Montreal Canadiens (38–5–7) Montreal Canadiens
28 1944–45 1945 1945 50 October 28 April 22 Montreal Canadiens (38–8–4) Toronto Maple Leafs
29 1945–46 1946 1946 50 October 24 April 9 Montreal Canadiens (28–17–5) Montreal Canadiens
30 1946–47 1947 1947 60 October 16 April 19 Montreal Canadiens (34–16–10) Toronto Maple Leafs
31 1947–48 1948 1948 60 October 15 April 14 Toronto Maple Leafs (32–15–13) Toronto Maple Leafs
32 1948–49 1949 1949 60 October 13 April 16 Detroit Red Wings (34–19–7) Toronto Maple Leafs
33 1949–50 1950 1950 70 October 12 April 23 Detroit Red Wings (37–19–14) Detroit Red Wings
34 1950–51 1951 1951 70 October 11 April 21 Detroit Red Wings (44–13–13) Toronto Maple Leafs
35 1951–52 1952 1952 70 October 11 April 15 Detroit Red Wings (44–14–12) Detroit Red Wings
36 1952–53 1953 1953 70 October 9 April 16 Detroit Red Wings (36–16–18) Montreal Canadiens
37 1953–54 1954 1954 70 October 8 April 16 Detroit Red Wings (37–19–14) Detroit Red Wings
38 1954–55 1955 1955 70 October 7 April 14 Detroit Red Wings (42–11–11) Detroit Red Wings
39 1955–56 1956 1956 70 October 6 April 10 Montreal Canadiens (45–15–10) Montreal Canadiens
40 1956–57 1957 1957 70 October 11 April 16 Detroit Red Wings (38–20–12) Montreal Canadiens
41 1957–58 1958 1958 70 October 8 April 20 Montreal Canadiens (43–17–10) Montreal Canadiens
42 1958–59 1959 1959 70 October 8 April 18 Montreal Canadiens (39–18–13) Montreal Canadiens
43 1959–60 1960 1960 70 October 7 April 14 Montreal Canadiens (40–18–12) Montreal Canadiens
44 1960–61 1961 1961 70 October 5 April 16 Montreal Canadiens (41–19–10) Chicago Black Hawks
45 1961–62 1962 1962 70 October 11 April 22 Montreal Canadiens (42–14–14) Toronto Maple Leafs
46 1962–63 1963 1963 70 October 12 April 18 Toronto Maple Leafs (35–23–12) Toronto Maple Leafs
47 1963–64 1964 1964 70 October 8 April 25 Montreal Canadiens (36–21–13) Toronto Maple Leafs
48 1964–65 1965 1965 70 October 12 May 1 Detroit Red Wings (40–23–7) Montreal Canadiens
49 1965–66 1966 1966 70 October 23 May 5 Montreal Canadiens (41–21–8) Montreal Canadiens
50 1966–67 1967 1967 70 October 19 May 2 Chicago Black Hawks (41–17–12) Toronto Maple Leafs

Expansion years

Since 1967, the league re-organized several times as it grew. In 1967, the league played in two divisions, with the playoff winner of each division playing off for the NHL championship. As the league grew the league changed its championship format to allow cross-over seeding, then changed to a division-based championship, leading to conference-based championship, with conference champions playing off for the Stanley Cup. In 1985, the Presidents' Trophy was inaugurated to reward the team with the top regular season record, irrespective of division or conference.

No. Season Playoffs Finals No. of
Reg. season
(reg. season)
(incl. playoffs)
Top record Champion
51 1967–68 1968 1968 12[15] 74 October 11 May 11 Montreal Canadiens (42–22–10) Montreal Canadiens
52 1968–69 1969 1969 12 76 October 11 May 4 Montreal Canadiens (46–19–11) Montreal Canadiens
53 1969–70 1970 1970 12 76 October 11 May 10 Chicago Black Hawks (45–22–9) Boston Bruins
54 1970–71 1971 1971 14[16] 78 October 9 May 18 Boston Bruins (57–14–7) Montreal Canadiens
55 1971–72 1972 1972 14 78 October 8 May 11 Boston Bruins (54–13–11) Boston Bruins
56 1972–73 1973 1973 16[17] 78 October 7 May 10 Montreal Canadiens (52–10–16) Montreal Canadiens
57 1973–74 1974 1974 16 78 October 10 May 19 Boston Bruins (52–17–9) Philadelphia Flyers
58 1974–75 1975 1975 18[18] 80 October 9 May 27 Philadelphia Flyers (51–18–11) Philadelphia Flyers
59 1975–76 1976 1976 18 80 October 7 May 16 Montreal Canadiens (58–11–11) Montreal Canadiens
60 1976–77 1977 1977 18[19] 80 October 5 May 14 Montreal Canadiens (60–8–12) Montreal Canadiens
61 1977–78 1978 1978 18 80 October 12 May 25 Montreal Canadiens (59–10–11) Montreal Canadiens
62 1978–79 1979 1979 17[20] 80 October 11 May 21 New York Islanders (51–15–14) Montreal Canadiens
63 1979–80 1980 1980 21[21] 80 October 9 May 24 Philadelphia Flyers (48–12–20) New York Islanders
64 1980–81 1981 1981 21 80 October 9 May 21 New York Islanders (48–18–14) New York Islanders
65 1981–82 1982 1982 21 80 October 6 May 16 New York Islanders (54–16–10) New York Islanders
66 1982–83 1983 1983 21[22] 80 October 5 May 17 Boston Bruins (50–20–10) New York Islanders
67 1983–84 1984 1984 21 80 October 4 May 19 Edmonton Oilers (57–18–5) Edmonton Oilers
68 1984–85 1985 1985 21 80 October 11 May 30 Philadelphia Flyers (53–20–7) Edmonton Oilers
69 1985–86 1986 1986 21 80 October 10 May 24 Edmonton Oilers (56–17–7) Montreal Canadiens
70 1986–87 1987 1987 21 80 October 9 May 31 Edmonton Oilers (50–24–6) Edmonton Oilers
71 1987–88 1988 1988 21 80 October 8 May 26 Calgary Flames (48–23–9) Edmonton Oilers
72 1988–89 1989 1989 21 80 October 6 May 25 Calgary Flames (54–17–9) Calgary Flames
73 1989–90 1990 1990 21 80 October 5 May 24 Boston Bruins (46–25–9) Edmonton Oilers
74 1990–91 1991 1991 21 80 October 4 May 25 Chicago Blackhawks (49–23–8) Pittsburgh Penguins
75 1991–92 1992 1992 22[23] 80 October 3 June 1 New York Rangers (50–25–5) Pittsburgh Penguins
^ 15. The California Seals, Los Angeles Kings, Philadelphia Flyers, Pittsburgh Penguins, Minnesota North Stars and St. Louis Blues started play.
^ 16. The Buffalo Sabres and Vancouver Canucks started play.
^ 17. The Atlanta Flames and New York Islanders started play.
^ 18. The Kansas City Scouts and Washington Capitals started play.
^ 19. The California Gold Seals relocated to Ohio, renamed Cleveland Barons. Kansas City Scouts relocated to Colorado, renamed Colorado Rockies.
^ 20. The Cleveland Barons merge with the Minnesota North Stars.
^ 21. The Edmonton Oilers, Hartford Whalers, Quebec Nordiques and Winnipeg Jets (1972–96) join the NHL.
^ 22. The Colorado Rockies relocated to New Jersey, renamed New Jersey Devils.
^ 23. The San Jose Sharks started play.

Current era

In 1993, coinciding with the naming of Gary Bettman as commissioner, the league re-organized into the Eastern and Western Conferences, with two divisions each, organized along geographical lines. The playoff format was changed to provide conference champions without divisional playoff champions. A new round of expansion began. By 2000–01, the number of teams increased to 30 and the number of divisions increased to six. This era has seen three seasons where the seasons were changed due to labour disputes between the NHL and the players' union. The 1994–95 and 2012–13 seasons were shortened to 48 intraconference games, and the 2004–05 season's games were cancelled entirely. According to the 2011 NHL Guide and Record Book, the NHL includes the 2004–05 season in its count of seasons. For example, the 2011 NHL Guide lists the Tampa Bay Lightning as entering their 19th 'NHL Season', although a count of the Lightning's seasons of play would determine the 2010–11 season to be their 18th season of play.[1]

No. Season Playoffs Finals No. of
Reg. season
(reg. season)
(incl. playoffs)
Top record Champion
76 1992–93 1993 1993 24[24] 84 October 6 June 9 Pittsburgh Penguins (56–21–7) Montreal Canadiens
77 1993–94 1994 1994 26[25] 84 October 5 June 14 New York Rangers (52–24–8) New York Rangers
78 1994–95 1995 1995 26 48[26] January 20 June 24 Detroit Red Wings (33–11–4) New Jersey Devils
79 1995–96 1996 1996 26 82 October 6 June 10 Detroit Red Wings (62–13–7) Colorado Avalanche
80 1996–97 1997 1997 26[27] 82 October 4 June 7 Colorado Avalanche (49–24–9) Detroit Red Wings
81 1997–98 1998 1998 26 82 October 1 June 16 Dallas Stars (49–22–11) Detroit Red Wings
82 1998–99 1999 1999 27[28] 82 October 9 June 19 Dallas Stars (51–19–12) Dallas Stars
83 1999–00 2000 2000 28[29] 82 October 1 June 10 St. Louis Blues (51–19–11–1) New Jersey Devils
84 2000–01 2001 2001 30[30] 82 October 4 June 9 Colorado Avalanche (52–16–10–4) Colorado Avalanche
85 2001–02 2002 2002 30 82 October 3 June 13 Detroit Red Wings (51–17–10–4) Detroit Red Wings
86 2002–03 2003 2003 30 82 October 9 June 9 Ottawa Senators (52–21–8–1) New Jersey Devils
87 2003–04 2004 2004 30 82 October 8 June 7 Detroit Red Wings (48–21–11–2) Tampa Bay Lightning
88 2004–05 Season not played due to lockout
89 2005–06 2006 2006 30 82 October 5 June 19 Detroit Red Wings (58–16–8) Carolina Hurricanes
90 2006–07 2007 2007 30 82 October 4 June 6 Buffalo Sabres (53–22–7) Anaheim Ducks
91 2007–08 2008 2008 30 82 September 29 June 4 Detroit Red Wings (54–21–7) Detroit Red Wings
92 2008–09 2009 2009 30 82 October 4 June 12 San Jose Sharks (53–18–11) Pittsburgh Penguins
93 2009–10 2010 2010 30 82 October 1 June 9 Washington Capitals (54–15–13) Chicago Blackhawks
94 2010–11 2011 2011 30 82 October 7 June 15 Vancouver Canucks (54–19–9) Boston Bruins
95 2011–12 2012 2012 30[31] 82 October 6 June 11 Vancouver Canucks (51–22–9) Los Angeles Kings
96 2012–13 2013 2013 30 48[32] January 19 June 24 Chicago Blackhawks (36–7–5) Chicago Blackhawks
97 2013–14 2014 2014 30 82 October 1 June 13 Boston Bruins (54–19–9) Los Angeles Kings
98 2014–15 2015 2015 30 82 October 8 June 15 New York Rangers (53–22–7) Chicago Blackhawks
99 2015–16 2016 2016 30 82 October 7 June 12 Washington Capitals (56–18–8) Pittsburgh Penguins
100 2016–17 2017 2017 30 82 October 12 June 11 Washington Capitals (55–19–8) Pittsburgh Penguins
101 2017–18 2018 2018 31[33] 82 October 4 June 7 Nashville Predators (53–18–11) Washington Capitals
102 2018–19 2019 2019 31 82 October 3 TBD Tampa Bay Lightning (62-16-4) TBD
^ 24. Ottawa Senators and Tampa Bay Lightning started play.
^ 25. Mighty Ducks of Anaheim and Florida Panthers started play. Minnesota North Stars relocated to Texas, renamed Dallas Stars.
^ 26. Season shortened due to lockout.
^ 27. Winnipeg Jets (1972–96) relocated to Arizona, July 1996, renamed Phoenix Coyotes.
^ 28. Nashville Predators started play.
^ 29. Atlanta Thrashers started play.
^ 30. Columbus Blue Jackets and Minnesota Wild started play.
^ 31. Atlanta Thrashers relocated to Winnipeg, May 2011, renamed Winnipeg Jets.
^ 32. Season shortened due to lockout. Last season to have 5 teams per division.
^ 33. Vegas Golden Knights started play.

All-time top regular season record holders

This table lists the number of times that NHL/NHA teams had the top record in the regular season. (This list does not count Stanley Cup/League Champion wins.) The Presidents' Trophy is the current award for the team with the best regular season record, which began being awarded starting with the 1985–86 NHL season. From 1938 to 1967 the Prince of Wales Trophy was the award for the team with the best record in the regular season. Following the expansion of 1967–68 no award was giving until the inception of the Presidents' Trophy.

Total Team Most recent
23 Montreal Canadiens ^ 1977–78
18 Detroit Red Wings 2007–08
13 Boston Bruins 2013–14
9 Ottawa Senators (original) ^ 1927–28
6 Toronto Maple Leafs 1962–63
4 Chicago Blackhawks 2012–13
4 New York Rangers 2014–15
3 Edmonton Oilers 1986–87
3 New York Islanders 1981–82
3 Philadelphia Flyers 1984–85
3 Washington Capitals 2016–17
2 Colorado Avalanche 2000–01
2 Calgary Flames 1988–89
2 Dallas Stars 1998–99
2 Vancouver Canucks 2011-12
2 Quebec Bulldogs (NHA) 1912–13
1 Buffalo Sabres 2006–07
1 Hamilton Tigers 1924–25
1 Montreal Wanderers (NHA) 1910
1 Nashville Predators 2017-18
1 Ottawa Senators 2002–03
1 Pittsburgh Penguins 1992–93
1 San Jose Sharks 2008–09
1 St. Louis Blues 1999–00
1 Toronto Blueshirts (NHA) 1913–14
Defunct teams denoted in italics.
^ The Montreal Canadiens and Ottawa Senators (original) each have 2 top regular season records in the NHA in addition to their NHL seasons.


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  • Ralph, Dinger, ed. (2010). The National Hockey League Official Guide & Record Book/2011. Dan Diamond & Associates. ISBN 978-1-894801-19-5.
  1. ^ Dinger 2010, p. 95.

External links

Media related to National Hockey League seasons at Wikimedia Commons

source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_NHL_seasons



The history of the National Hockey League begins with the end of its predecessor league, the National Hockey Association (NHA), in 1917. After unsuccessfully attempting to resolve disputes with Eddie Livingstone, owner of the Toronto Blueshirts, executives of the three other NHA franchises suspended the NHA, and formed the National Hockey League (NHL), replacing the Livingstone team with a temporary team in Toronto, the Arenas. The NHL's first quarter-century saw the league compete against two rival major leagues—the Pacific Coast Hockey Association and Western Canada Hockey League—for players and the Stanley Cup. The NHL first expanded into the United States in 1924 with the founding of the Boston Bruins, and by 1926 consisted of ten teams in Ontario, Quebec, the Great Lakes region, and the Northeastern United States. At the same time, the NHL emerged as the only major league and the sole competitor for the Stanley Cup; in 1947, the NHL completed a deal with the Stanley Cup trustees to gain full control of the Cup. The NHL's footprint spread across Canada as Foster Hewitt's radio broadcasts were heard coast-to-coast starting in 1933.

The Great Depression and World War II reduced the league to six teams, later known as the "Original Six", by 1942. Maurice Richard became the first player to score 50 goals in a season in 1944–45, and ten years later, Richard was suspended for assaulting a linesman, leading to the Richard Riot. Gordie Howe made his debut in 1946, and retired 35 seasons later as the NHL's all-time leader in goals and points. "China Clipper" Larry Kwong becomes the first non-white player in the league, breaking the NHL colour barrier in 1948, when he played for the New York Rangers. Willie O'Ree broke the NHL's black colour barrier when he suited up for the Bruins in 1958. In 1959, Jacques Plante became the first goaltender to regularly use a mask for protection.

The Original Six era ended in 1967 when the NHL doubled in size by adding six new expansion teams. The six existing teams were formed into the newly created East Division, while the expansion teams were formed into the West Division. The NHL continued to expand, adding another six teams, to total 18 by 1974. This continued expansion was partially brought about by the NHL's attempts to compete with the World Hockey Association, which operated from 1972 until 1979 and sought to compete with the NHL for markets and players. Bobby Hull was the most famous player to defect to the rival league, signing a $2.75 million contract with the Winnipeg Jets. The NHL became involved in international play in the mid-1970s, starting with the Summit Series in 1972 which pitted the top Canadian players of the NHL against the top players in the Soviet Union, which was won by Canada with four wins, three losses, and a tie. Eventually, Soviet-Bloc players streamed into the NHL with the fall of the Iron Curtain in 1989.

When the WHA ceased operations in 1979, the NHL absorbed four of the league's teams, which brought the NHL to 21 teams, a figure that remained constant until the San Jose Sharks were added as an expansion franchise in 1991. Since then, the league has grown from 22 teams in 1992 to 31 today as the NHL spread its footprint across the United States. The league has withstood major labour conflicts in 1994–95 and 2004–05, the latter of which saw the entire 2004–05 NHL season canceled, the first time in North American history that a league has canceled an entire season in a labour dispute. Wayne Gretzky passed Gordie Howe as the NHL's all-time leading scorer in 1994 when he scored his 802nd career goal. Mario Lemieux overcame non-Hodgkin lymphoma to finish his NHL career with over 1,700 points and two Stanley Cup championships. Increased use of defence-focused systems helped cause scoring to fall in the late 1990s, leading some to argue that the NHL's talent pool had been diluted by 1990s expansion. In 1998, the NHL began awarding teams a single point for losing in overtime, hoping to reduce the number of tie games; after the 2004–05 lockout, it eliminated the tie altogether, introducing the shootout to ensure that each game has a winner.

Map of Canadian provinces and U.S. states, and what decade they got their first NHL team.

Background and founding

The first attempts to regulate competitive ice hockey matches came in the late 1880s. Before then, teams competed in tournaments and infrequent challenge contests that prevailed in the Canadian sports world at the time. In 1887, four clubs from Montreal formed the Amateur Hockey Association of Canada (AHAC) and developed a structured schedule. In 1892, Lord Stanley donated the Stanley Cup to be symbolic of the Canadian championship and appointed Philip Dansken Ross and Sheriff John Sweetland as its trustees. It was awarded to the AHAC champion Montreal Hockey Club and thereafter awarded to the league champions, or to any pre-approved team that won it in a challenge.[1] In 1904, the International Hockey League (IHL), based around Lake Michigan, was created as the first fully professional league, which lasted for two seasons. In recruiting players, the IHL caused an "Athletic War" that drained amateur clubs of top players, most noticeably in the Ontario Hockey Association (OHA).[2] In the 1905–06 season, the Eastern Canada Amateur Hockey Association (ECAHA) was formed,[3] which mixed paid and amateur players in its rosters, which led to the demise of the IHL. Bidding wars for players led many ECAHA teams to lose money, and it eventually folded on November 25, 1909. As a result of the dissolution of the ECAHA, two leagues were formed—the Canadian Hockey Association (CHA) and the National Hockey Association (NHA).[4] Since the NHA's owners were notable, wealthy businessmen, the CHA did not complete a season, as the NHA easily recruited the top players, and interest in the CHA teams faded.[5] By 1914, the rival Pacific Coast Hockey Association (PCHA) league was launched and the NHA champion would play off each season against the PCHA champion for the Stanley Cup, ending the challenge era.

The National Hockey League came into existence with the suspension of the NHA in 1917.[6] After unsuccessfully resolving disputes with Eddie Livingstone, owner of the Toronto Blueshirts, executives of the three other NHA franchises—the Montreal Canadiens, Montreal Wanderers and Ottawa Senators—suspended the NHA, and formed the NHL, replacing Livingstone's team with a temporary team in Toronto, the Arenas.[7] While new, the NHL was a continuation of the NHA. The NHL adopted the NHA's constitution, its rules, playing with six men to a side rather than the then-traditional seven and the NHA's split-season schedule. The owners originally intended the NHL to only operate for one season. However, the NHA was suspended permanently in 1918 and ceased to be an organisation in 1920.[8] In 1921, the NHA championship trophy O'Brien Cup was adopted as the championship trophy of the NHL.[9]

1917–1942: Founding

Early years

Cities that hosted NHL teams prior to the 1967 NHL expansion. The six teams that lasted past the Great Depression and World War II became known as the Original Six. Montreal and New York hosted Original Six teams and teams that folded.

One of the NHL's first superstars was the prolific goal-scorer Joe Malone, who scored 44 goals in 20 games in the NHL's first season,[10] of which five were netted on the NHL's opening night.[11] He also set the record for the most goals in a game that season, with seven.[12] Six games into the season, the Montreal Wanderers were forced to permanently withdraw from the league,[13] as a fire left them without an arena.[14] In the 1918–19 season, the Montreal Canadiens faced the Seattle Metropolitans of the PCHA for the Stanley Cup amid the Spanish influenza pandemic.[15][16] The series was called off after five games when numerous players became ill;[15] one, Joe Hall of the Canadiens, died a few weeks later.[17]

Maple Leaf Gardens in 1934

During the early 1920s, the NHL faced competition for players from two other major leagues: the PCHA and the Western Canada Hockey League (WCHL). As a result, ice hockey players were among the best paid athletes in North America.[18] By the mid-1920s, the NHL emerged as the sole major league in North America; the PCHA and WCHL merged in 1924, only to disband two years later. The Victoria Cougars are the last non-NHL team to win the Stanley Cup, having defeated the Canadiens in 1925,[19] and lost to the Montreal Maroons in 1926,[20] respectively. The NHL continued to expand, adding the Maroons and its first American team, the Boston Bruins in 1924, getting up to 10 teams by 1926.[21] Defence dominated the NHL, and in the 1928–29 season, Canadiens goaltender George Hainsworth set what remains a league record with 22 shutouts in 44 games.[22] In response, the NHL began to allow forward passing in the offensive zone,[23] which caused the offense to increase by approximately 2.5 times;[24] to stem the tide, the NHL introduced the offside rule, which prevents offensive players from entering the opponent's zone before the puck crosses the "blue line".[22]

Livingstone continued to press claims in court throughout the 1920s, going as far as the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council in London, England.[25] In early 1927, the Toronto franchise was sold to Conn Smythe,[26] who renamed it to the Maple Leafs,[27] and successfully promised to win the Stanley Cup in five years.[28][29] He built the Maple Leaf Gardens, which included radio broadcaster Foster Hewitt's famous broadcast booth, affectionately referred to as a "gondola".[30] On December 13, 1933, Eddie Shore charged Ace Bailey causing a severe skull fracture, following what Shore thought was a check from Bailey, but was actually made by King Clancy.[31] Despite the grim prognosis (newspapers printed his obituary), Bailey survived, but never played a game.[32] The Maple Leafs hosted the Ace Bailey All-Star Benefit Game, which raised over $20,000 for Bailey and his family.[33]

Great Depression

The sweater of the Philadelphia Quakers, in 1931–32; the Quakers were one of four franchises to fail between 1931 and 1942.

While Conn Smythe was able to successfully build a new arena, numerous other teams experienced financial difficulties. With the folding of the Philadelphia Quakers (originally the Pittsburgh Pirates) and the St. Louis Eagles (originally the Ottawa Senators), the NHL was reduced to eight teams starting in the 1935–36 season.[34][35] The Montreal Canadiens narrowly escaped a move to Cleveland, Ohio, before a syndicate of Montreal businessmen bought the team.[36] Montreal's financial troubles forced them to sell popular player Howie Morenz.[37] When Morenz scored against the Canadiens on the last day of the 1935 season, Montreal fans voiced their opinion, giving him a standing ovation.[38] Morenz was eventually re-acquired by Montreal,[38] and on January 28, 1937, Morenz's skate became caught in the ice during a play.[38] He suffered a broken leg in four places, and died on March 8 of a coronary embolism; 50,000 people filed past Morenz's casket at centre ice of the Montreal Forum to pay their last respects.[39] A benefit game held in November 1937 raised $20,000 for Morenz's family as the NHL All-Stars defeated the Montreal Canadiens 6–5.[40]

In the mid-1930s, Chicago Black Hawks owner and staunch American nationalist Frederic McLaughlin commanded his general manager to compile a team of only American players; at the time, Taffy Abel was the only American-born player who was a regular player in the league.[41] With eight out of 14 players Americans,[42] the Black Hawks won only 14 of 48 games.[43] In the playoffs, however, the Hawks upset the Canadiens, New York Americans, and the Maple Leafs to become the only team in NHL history to win the Stanley Cup despite a losing regular-season record.[43] In the 1942 Stanley Cup Finals, the heavily favoured Toronto Maple Leafs were facing an upset, having fallen 3–0 in the seven-game series to the fifth-place Detroit Red Wings. Toronto rebounded, and won the next four games to capture the Stanley Cup, becoming the first of four teams in the NHL to come back from a 3–0 series deficit and the only team to accomplish that in the Stanley Cup Finals.[44]

Prior to the 1938–39 season, the Montreal Maroons folded due to financial difficulties,[43] while the New York Americans suffered a similar fate prior to the 1942–43 season.[45] With the league reduced to six teams, the "Original Six" era began. The league was nearly reduced to five teams before the following season, as World War II had ravaged the rosters of many teams to such an extent that teams battled each other for players.[46] With only five returning players from the previous season, New York Rangers general manager Lester Patrick suggested suspending his team's play for the duration of the war but was persuaded otherwise.[46]

1942–1967: Original Six

Post-war period

Red Dutton briefly served as NHL president between 1943 and 1946.
Clarence Campbell served as the NHL's third President from 1946 until his retirement in 1977.

In February 1943, league President Frank Calder collapsed during a meeting, dying shortly after.[47]Red Dutton agreed to take over as president after receiving assurances from the league that the Brooklyn franchise he had operated would resume play after the war. When the other team owners reneged on this promise in 1946, Dutton resigned as league president.[48] With Dutton's recommendation, Clarence Campbell was named president of the NHL in 1946. He remained in that role until his retirement in 1977. For the first 21 years of his presidency, the same six teams (located in Boston, Chicago, Detroit, Montreal, New York, and Toronto) competed for the Stanley Cup and that period has been called the "golden age of hockey".[49] The NHL featured increasingly intense rivalries coupled with rule innovations that opened up the game.[50] The first official All-Star Game took place at Maple Leaf Gardens in Toronto on October 13, 1947 to raise money for the newly created NHL Pension Society. The NHL All-Stars defeated the Toronto Maple Leafs 4–3 and raised C$25,000 for the pension fund.[51]

Maurice "Rocket" Richard, the first player to score 50 goals in 50 games, retired as the NHL's all-time scoring leader.

The 1940s Canadiens were led by the "Punch line" of Elmer Lach, Toe Blake and Maurice "Rocket" Richard. In 1944–45, Lach, Richard and Blake finished first, second and third in the NHL's scoring race with 80, 73 and 67 points respectively.[52] It was Richard who became the focus of the media and fans as he attempted to score 50 goals in a 50-game season, a feat no other player had accomplished in league history.[53] Richard scored his 50th goal in Boston at 17:45 of the third period of Montreal's final game of the season.[52] On March 13, 1948, Larry Kwong, the "China Clipper", becomes the first non-white player in the NHL, breaking the colour barrier. He suited up for the New York Rangers against the Montreal Canadiens at the Montreal Forum.[54] In March 1955, Richard was suspended for the remainder of the season, including the playoffs, after he received a match penalty for slashing Boston's Hal Laycoe then punching a linesman who attempted to intervene.[55] The suspension touched off a wave of anger towards league president Clarence Campbell, who was warned not to attend a scheduled game in Montreal after receiving numerous death threats, mainly from French-Canadians accusing him of anti-French bias.[56] Campbell dismissed the warnings, and attended the March 17 game as planned. His presence at the game was perceived by many fans as a provocation and he was booed and pelted with eggs and fruit.[57] An hour into the game, a fan lobbed a tear-gas bomb in Campbell's direction, and firefighters decided to clear the building.[56] Fans leaving the game and a growing mob of angry demonstrators rioted outside of the Montreal Forum, which became known as l'affaire Richard, or the Richard Riot.[57] Richard became the first player to score 500 career goals on October 19, 1957. He retired in 1960 as an eight-time Stanley Cup champion, as well as the NHL's all-time leading scorer with 544 goals.[55]

In the fall of 1951, Maple Leafs owner Conn Smythe watched special television feeds of games in an attempt to determine whether it would be a suitable medium for broadcasting hockey games. Television already had its detractors within the NHL, especially in Campbell.[58] In 1952, even though only 10% of Canadians owned a television set, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) began televising games.[59] On November 1, 1952, Hockey Night in Canada was first broadcast on television, with Foster Hewitt calling the action between the Leafs and Bruins at Maple Leaf Gardens. The broadcasts quickly became the highest-rated show on Canadian television.[58] Campbell feared televised hockey would cause people to stop attending games in person, but Smythe felt the opposite.[59]CBS first broadcast hockey games in the United States in the 1956–57 season as an experiment. Amazed with the initial popularity of the broadcasts, it inaugurated a 21-game package of games the following year.[58] The NHL itself adapted to be viewer-friendly. In 1949, the league mandated that the ice surface be painted white to make the puck easier to see. On January 18, 1958, Willie O'Ree joined the Bruins as an injury call-up for a game in Montreal. In doing so he became the first black player in the NHL.[60][61]

Clint Benedict was the first goaltender to wear facial protection, donning it in 1930 to protect a broken nose. He quickly abandoned his mask as its design interfered with his vision.[62] Twenty-nine years later, on November 1, 1959, in a game against New York Rangers Jacques Plante made the goaltender mask a permanent fixture in hockey.[63] The first players' union was formed February 12, 1957 by Red Wings player Ted Lindsay who had sat on the board of the NHL's Pension Society since 1952.[64] Lindsay and his fellow players were upset by the league's refusal to let them view the books related to the pension fund. The league claimed that it could not contribute more than it did but the players on the Pension Committee suspected otherwise.[65] The idea quickly gained popularity and when the union's founding was announced publicly, nearly every NHL player had signed up.[66] Led by Alan Eagleson, the National Hockey League Players' Association (NHLPA) was formed in 1967[67] and it quickly received acceptance from the owners.[68]


Syl Apps, with the Cup before it was redesigned, in the 1940s

The Original Six era was a period of dynasties. The Toronto Maple Leafs won the Stanley Cup five times between 1944–45 and 1950–51. In the 1951 Stanley Cup Finals, the Maple Leafs defeated the Canadiens four games to one in the only final in NHL history when all games were decided in overtime.[69] Beginning in 1948–49, the Red Wings won seven consecutive regular season titles, a feat that no other team has accomplished. During that time, the Wings won four Stanley Cups.[70] It was during the 1952 Stanley Cup Finals that the Legend of the Octopus was created. Brothers Pete and Jerry Cusimano brought a dead octopus to the Detroit Olympia for the fourth game of the finals. They hoped that the octopus would inspire Detroit to an eighth game victory. Detroit went on to defeat Montreal 3–0 and the tradition was born.[71] The Red Wings faced the Canadiens in the Stanley Cup Finals in three consecutive seasons between 1954 and 1956.[72] Detroit won the first two match-ups, but Montreal captured the 1956 Stanley Cup, ending one dynasty and starting another.[70] The Canadiens won five consecutive championships between 1956 and 1960, a feat no other team has duplicated.[73] The Original Six era ended with the 1967 Stanley Cup Finals between the two-time defending champion Canadiens, and the Maple Leafs. The Maple Leafs finished the era by winning the Cup four times between 1962 and 1967, their 1967 championship is the last Maple Leafs title to date. The Chicago Blackhawks, who won in 1961, are the only other team to win the Stanley Cup during this period.[74]

1967–1992: Expansion era

Expansion years

In 1963, Rangers governor William Jennings introduced to his peers the idea of expanding the league to the American West Coast by adding two new teams for the 1964–65 season. While the governors did not agree to the proposal, the topic of expansion came up every time the owners met from then on out.[75] In 1965, it was decided to expand by six teams, doubling the size of the NHL.[76] In February 1966, the governors met and decided to award franchises to Los Angeles, Minnesota, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Oakland and St. Louis. The league rejected bids from Baltimore, Buffalo and Vancouver.[77] In Canada, there was widespread outrage over the denial of an expansion team to Vancouver in 1967;[78] three years later, the NHL awarded a franchise to Vancouver, which formerly played in the Western Hockey League, for the 1970–71 season, along with the Buffalo Sabres.[79]

On January 13, 1968, North Stars' rookie Bill Masterton became the first, and to date, only player to die as a result of injuries suffered during an NHL game.[80] Early in a game against Oakland, Masterton was checked hard by two players causing him to flip over backwards and land on his head.[81] Masterton was rushed to hospital with massive head injuries, and died there two days later.[82] The National Hockey League Writers Association presented the league with the Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy later in the season.[83] Following Masterton's death, players slowly began wearing helmets, and starting in the 1979–80 season, the league mandated all players entering the league wear them.[80]

In the 1968–69 season, third-year defenceman Bobby Orr scored 21 goals to set an NHL record for goals by a defenceman en route to winning his first of eight consecutive Norris Trophies as the league's top defenceman.[84] At the same time, Orr's teammate, Phil Esposito, became the first player in league history to score 100 points in a season, finishing with 126 points.[85] A gifted scorer, Orr revolutionized defencemen's impact on the offensive part of the game, as blue-liners began to be judged on how well they created goals in addition to how well they prevented them.[86] Orr twice won the Art Ross Trophy as the NHL's leading scorer, the only defenceman in NHL history to do so.[87] Chronic knee problems plagued Orr throughout his career; he played 12 seasons in the NHL before injuries forced his retirement in 1978. Orr finished with 270 goals and 915 points in 657 games, and he won the Hart Memorial Trophy as league Most Valuable Player thrice.[84]

The 1970–71 NHL season was the 54th season of the National Hockey League. Two new teams, the Buffalo Sabres and Vancouver Canucks made their debuts and were both put into the East Division. The Chicago Black Hawks were moved to the West Division. The Montreal Canadiens won the Stanley Cup by beating the Black Hawks in seven games in the finals.

The 1970s were associated with aggressive, and often violent play. Known as the "Broad Street Bullies", the Philadelphia Flyers are the most famous example of this mindset.[88] The Flyers established league records for penalty minutes—Dave "the Hammer" Schultz' total of 472 in 1974–75 remains a league record.[89][90] They captured the 1974 Stanley Cup, becoming the first expansion team to win the league championship.[88]

WHA competition and merger

The Colorado Rockies battle the Atlanta Flames in 1978. These teams are now the New Jersey Devils and Calgary Flames respectively.

In 1972, the NHL faced competition from the newly formed World Hockey Association (WHA). The WHA lured many players away from the NHL.[91] The WHA's biggest coup was to lure Bobby Hull from the Black Hawks to play for the Winnipeg Jets. He signed a $2.75 million contract, and lent instant credibility to the new league.[92][92] After Hull signed, several other players quickly followed suit and the NHL suddenly found itself in a war for talent.[93] By the time the 1972–73 WHA season began, 67 players had switched from the NHL to the WHA.[94] The NHL also found itself competing with the WHA for markets. Initially, the league had no intention to expand past 14 teams, but the threat the WHA represented caused the league to change its plans. The league hastily announced the creation of the New York Islanders and Atlanta Flames as 1972 expansion teams.[95] Following the 1972–73 season, the NHL announced it was further expanding to 18-teams for the 1974–75 season, adding the Kansas City Scouts and Washington Capitals.[96] In just eight years, the NHL had tripled in size to 18 teams.

By 1976, both leagues were dealing with serious financial problems. The St. Louis Blues were on the verge of bankruptcy.[97] Talk of a merger between the NHL and the WHA was growing.[98] In 1976, for the first time in four decades, the NHL approved franchise relocations; the Scouts moved after just two years in Kansas City to Denver to become the Colorado Rockies, while the California Golden Seals became the Cleveland Barons.[98] Two years later, after failed overtures about merging the Barons with Washington and Vancouver, the Barons merged with the Minnesota North Stars, reducing the NHL to 17 teams for 1978–79.[99]

Cities that hosted NHL and WHA teams at the time of the NHL-WHA merger in 1979. Four WHA teams joined the NHL, while the two remaining teams joined the CHL.

The move towards a merger picked up in 1977 when John Ziegler succeeded Clarence Campbell as NHL president.[100] The WHA folded following the 1978–79 season, while the Edmonton Oilers, Hartford Whalers, Quebec Nordiques and Winnipeg Jets joined the NHL as expansion teams, which brought the league up to 21 teams, a constant until 1991.[100] The merger brought Gordie Howe back to the NHL for one final season in 1979–80, during which he brought his NHL career total to 801 goals and 1,850 points.[101] It was also the last season for the Atlanta Flames. The team averaged only 9,800 fans in attendance and lost over $2 million.[102] They were sold for a record $16 million, and relocated north to become the Calgary Flames in 1980–81.[103] Two years later, the Rockies were sold for $30 million, and left Denver to become the New Jersey Devils for the 1982–83 season.[104]

More dynasties

A statue of Wayne Gretzky raising the Stanley Cup in front of Edmonton's Rogers Place.

Although the league expanded from six to 21 teams, dynasties still prevailed in the NHL. The Montreal Canadiens won four consecutive Stanley Cups starting in 1975-76.[105] In 1980, the New York Islanders won their first of four consecutive Stanley Cups.[106] The Islanders dominated both the regular season and the playoffs with the likes of Billy Smith, Mike Bossy, Denis Potvin, and Bryan Trottier.[107] In 1981, Bossy became the first player to score 50 goals in 50 games since Maurice Richard accomplished that feat in 1945.[106]

In 1982–83, the Edmonton Oilers won the regular season championship. The Oilers were led by Wayne Gretzky, who remained with the Oilers when they joined the NHL in 1979. He scored 137 points in 1979–80 and won the first of nine Hart Trophies as the NHL's most valuable player.[108] Over the next several seasons, Gretzky established new highs in goals scored in a season, with 92 in the 1981–82 season; in assists, with 163 in the 1985–86; and in total points, with 215 in 1985–86.[109] Gretzky also set the record for scoring 50 goals in the fewest games, achieving the mark in 39 games.[110] The Islanders and Oilers met in the Finals as New York swept Edmonton for their last Stanley Cup.[111] The following season, the Oilers and Islanders met again in the playoffs. The Oilers won the rematch in five games, marking the start of another dynasty.[112]

Led by Gretzky and Mark Messier, the Oilers won five Stanley Cup championships between 1984 and 1990.[113] On August 9, 1988, Oilers owner Peter Pocklington, in financial trouble, traded Gretzky to the Los Angeles Kings.[114] Gretzky's trade to the Kings popularized ice hockey in the United States.[115] With the Kings, Gretzky broke Gordie Howe's record for the most career points.[116]Mario Lemieux led Pittsburgh to Stanley Cups in 1990–91 and 1991–92. A gifted forward, he won six Art Ross Trophies as the league's leading scorer and he scored 199 points in 1988–89, becoming the second highest single-season point scorer behind Gretzky. Lemieux's career was plagued by health issues, including non-Hodgkin lymphoma, and he retired in 1997.[117] In 2000, he returned and finished his NHL career in 2006 with more than 1,700 points.[118][119]

Fall of the Iron Curtain

Alexander Mogilny, pictured in 2006, was among the first Soviets to play in the NHL in 1989.

The NHL became first involved in international play in the mid-1970s, starting with the Summit Series in 1972 which pitted the top Canadian players of the NHL against the top players in the Soviet Union. With the eight-game series tied at three wins apiece and a tie, Paul Henderson scooped up a rebound and put it past Soviet goaltender Vladislav Tretiak with 34 seconds left in the eighth and final game to score the series-winning goal.[120]

While European-born players were a part of the NHL since its founding, it was still rare to see them in the NHL until 1980, although the WHA employed a number of them.[121]Borje Salming was the first European star in the NHL and Finns Jari Kurri and Esa Tikkanen helped lead the Oilers dynasty of the 1980s.[122] The WHA opened the door, and players slowly joined the NHL, but those behind the Iron Curtain were restricted from following suit. In 1980, Peter Stastny, his wife, and his brother Anton secretly fled Czechoslovakia with the aid of Nordiques owner Marcel Aubut. The Stastnys' defection made international headlines, and contributed to the first wave of Europeans' entrance into the NHL.[121] Hoping that they would one day be permitted to play in the NHL, teams drafted Soviet players in the 1980s, 27 in all by the 1988 draft;[123] however, defection was the only way such players could play in the NHL.[124] Shortly before the end of the 1988–89 regular season, Flames general manager Cliff Fletcher announced that he had reached an agreement with Soviet authorities that allowed Sergei Pryakhin to play in North America. It was the first time a member of the Soviet national team was permitted to leave the Soviet Union.[125] Shortly after, Soviet players began to flood into the NHL. Teams anticipated that there would be an influx of Soviet players in the 1990s, as 18 Soviets were selected in the 1989 NHL Entry Draft.[123]

1992–present: Modern era

Map of relocated NHL teams

Southward expansion (1992-2000)

The 21-team era ended in 1990, when the league revealed ambitious plans to double league revenues from $400 million within a decade and bring the NHL to 28 franchises during that period.[126] The NHL quickly announced three new teams: The San Jose Sharks, who began play in the 1991–92 season, and the Ottawa Senators and Tampa Bay Lightning, who followed a year later.[127] The Lightning made NHL history when goaltender Manon Rheaume played a period of an exhibition game, September 23, 1992. In doing so, Rheaume became the first woman to play in an NHL game.[128] One year later, the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim and Florida Panthers began play as the NHL's 25th and 26th franchises respectively. The two new franchises were granted as part of the NHL's attempts at regaining a network television presence by expanding throughout the American south. The NHL's southward push continued in 1993 as the Minnesota North Stars moved to Dallas, Texas to become the Dallas Stars.[129]

In 1994, the players were locked out by the owners because of a lack of a Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA). The 1994–95 NHL lockout lasted 104 days and resulted in the season's being shortened from a planned 84 games to 48.[130] The owners insisted on a salary cap, changes to free agency and arbitration in the hopes of limiting escalating salaries, the union instead proposed a luxury tax system.[130] Just as the entire season seemed to be lost, an 11th-hour deal was agreed on.[131] The owners failed to achieve a full salary cap[130] but the deal was initially hailed as a win for the owners.[132] The deal was not enough to save two teams in Canada's smallest NHL markets. The revenue disparity between large and small market teams, exacerbated by the falling value of the Canadian Dollar, forced the Quebec Nordiques to move to Denver and become the Colorado Avalanche in 1995; the Winnipeg Jets relocated to Phoenix, Arizona, becoming the Coyotes, the next year.[133] The Hartford Whalers followed, moving to Greensboro, NC and becoming the Carolina Hurricanes in 1997.[134] The NHL continued its expansion into cities in the Southern United States. In 1998, the Nashville Predators joined the league, followed by the Atlanta Thrashers the following year.[134] To further market their players, the NHL decided to have its players play in the Winter Olympics, starting in 1998, at the Nagano Games.[135] In 2000, the league added two franchises, boosting the total number to 30. The NHL returned to Minnesota with the Wild and added the Blue Jackets in Columbus, Ohio.[134]

2004–05 lockout

Gary Bettman, pictured in 2008, joined the NHL as its first commissioner in 1993.

By 2004, the owners were claiming that player salaries had grown far faster than revenues, and that the league as a whole lost over US$300 million in 2002–03.[136] As a result, on September 15, 2004 Gary Bettman announced that the owners again locked the players out before the start of the 2004–05 season.[137] On February 16, 2005, Bettman announced the cancellation of the entire season.[138] As with the 1994–95 lockout, the owners were again demanding a salary cap, which the players were unwilling to consider until the season was on the verge of being lost.[137] The season's cancellation led to a revolt within the union. NHLPA president Trevor Linden and senior director Ted Saskin took charge of negotiations from executive director Bob Goodenow.[139] By early July, the two sides had agreed to a new collective bargaining agreement.[137] The deal featured a hard salary cap, linked to a fixed percentage of league revenues and a 24% rollback on salaries.[140]

21st century

Arena setup at Ralph Wilson Stadium in Buffalo for the 2008 Winter Classic

Hoping to reduce the number of tie games during the regular season, the NHL decided that beginning in the 1999–2000 season, in any game tied after regulation time, both teams would be guaranteed one point, while the team that won in overtime would earn a second point.[141] The Edmonton Oilers hosted the NHL's first regular season outdoor hockey game, the Heritage Classic on November 22, 2003. The game against the Canadiens was held at Commonwealth Stadium before a then-record crowd of 57,167 fans who endured temperatures as low as −18 degrees Celsius (0 degrees Fahrenheit).[142] In the 2005–06 season, the NHL eliminated tie games, as the shootout was introduced to decide all regular season games tied after the five-minute overtime period.[143] The shootout was one of several rule changes made in 2005, as the league attempted to open the game up after the lockout.[144] One of the most controversial changes was the league's zero-tolerance policy on obstruction penalties. The league hoped that the game could be opened up if it cracked down on "clutching and grabbing".[144] The tighter regulations have met with numerous complaints about the legitimacy of some calls,[145] that players are diving to draw penalties,[146] and that officials are not calling enough penalties.[147] The changes initially led to a sharp increase in scoring. Teams combined to score 6.1 goals per game in 2005–06, more than a full goal per game higher than in the 2003–04 season. This represented the highest increase in offence since 1929–30.[144] However, scoring has rapidly declined since, approaching pre-lockout totals in 2007–08.[148]

In the 2005–06 season, rookies Alexander Ovechkin and Sidney Crosby began their careers. In their first three seasons, they each won both the Art Ross and Hart trophies; Crosby in 2007,[149] and Ovechkin in 2008.[150] The success of the Heritage Classic led to the scheduling of more outdoor games. The Sabres hosted the 2008 NHL Winter Classic on New Year's Day 2008, losing to the Pittsburgh Penguins in a shootout before a crowd of 71,217 at Ralph Wilson Stadium.[151] The second Winter Classic was held January 1, 2009 at Wrigley Field in Chicago between the Blackhawks and Red Wings.[152] The third NHL Winter Classic was held in Fenway Park on January 1, 2010, between the Boston Bruins and the Philadelphia Flyers. The home team Bruins won.

Two clubs still experienced financial problems, however. The Phoenix Coyotes eventually filed for bankruptcy in May 2009. The league then took control over the team later that year in order to stabilize the club's operations, with the hopes of eventually reselling it to a new owner who would be committed to stay in the Phoenix market.[153][154] The league did not find a satisfactory buyer for the Coyotes until 2013.[155] The financially struggling Atlanta Thrashers were eventually sold to True North Sports and Entertainment in 2011, who then relocated the team to Winnipeg, a stark reversal of the league's Southward expansion more than a decade earlier.

The NHL again entered lockout in 2012, cancelling the first 526 games, about 43% of the season, until at least December 30, 2012. Just after 5 am on January 6, 2013, after approximately 16 continuous hours of negotiating, the NHL and the player's union reached a tentative deal on a new collective bargaining agreement to end the lockout.[156] The first games of the season were held on January 19.[157] In 2017, the league expanded again to Las Vegas, Nevada with the Vegas Golden Knights. In 2018, the league approved expansion to Seattle with the team planned to begin play in 2021.



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Further reading

External links

source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_the_National_Hockey_League

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