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NHL Introduction and History

September 15, 2023

        Most successful team

The Montreal Canadiens are the most successful team in league history, having won the Stanley Cup 24 times in their history; of the four major professional sports in North America, they are the only team to have won the Cup more times than the New York Yankees of Major League Baseball (but have been surpassed since 1999), while the second-most successful team is the Toronto Maple Leafs, who have won the Stanley Cup thirteen times, but haven't won it since 1967. The Detroit Red Wings, who have won ten Stanley Cups, are the most successful American team. The longest Stanley Cup streak was five with the Montreal Canadiens from 1955-1956 to 1959-1960; the New York Islanders and the Montreal Canadiens have both had four streaks.The Montreal Canadiens, with the 1976-1977 lineup, have been called the second greatest sports team of all time by ESPN.


        NHL System

The NHL season is divided into two parts, a regular season that follows a predetermined schedule, and an elimination-based four out of seven playoffs, with the team that wins the final round of the playoffs winning the Stanley Cup.

During the regular season, each team will play 82 games; 41 at home and 41 on the road. Beginning with the 2005-2006 regular season, each team will play 24 games against teams within its division, 40 games against teams in different divisions of the same conference, and 18 games across the Western or Eastern Conference (at least one game each against all teams in a different division). Each year, the two divisions of the Trans-West or East League alternate, similar to Major League Baseball's interleague play. Points are accumulated for each game, with two points awarded to the winning team, one point awarded to the team that loses in overtime, and no points awarded to the team that loses in regulation time. Of the four major professional sports in North America, the NHL is the only league that gives points to teams that lose in overtime.

At the end of the regular season, the team with the most points in the division is the division champion. The best league-wide record is awarded the "presidents' trophy". The three division champions from each conference and the five teams with the next highest point totals, for a total of eight single-conference teams, will advance to the playoffs. The division champions would be the first through third seeds (even if the non-division champion advancing team finished better), while the non-division champion advancers were ranked fourth through eighth. The Stanley Cup playoffs are a best-of-seven elimination tournament, with the winner advancing to the next round. In the first round of the playoffs, or the Conference Quarterfinals, the first seed plays the eighth seed, the second plays the seventh, the third plays the sixth, and the fourth team the fifth. In the second round, the conference semifinals, the seeding order is rearranged, with the best record of the remaining teams against the last record, and so on. In the third round, the Conference Championships, the two remaining teams from each conference will play each other, with the winner being the Conference Champion and earning a ticket to the Stanley Cup Championship Game.

The higher ranked team in each round will get home field advantage, with four of the seven games being held on that team's home field, first and second, fifth and seventh, if needed. The other three games will be played at the opposing stadium.

The first national hockey league was formed in 1885 with teams from Montreal, Quebec and Ottawa.

Professional hockey did not begin to spread until the National Hockey Association (NHA) was formed in Eastern Canada in 1909, and the Pacific Coast League was formed in 1911, with teams spanning from Western Canada to the United States.

  The two leagues hosted a championship tournament in 1912, and the Stanley Cup, the winner's prize, became the symbol of professional hockey, and winning the Stanley Cup became the supreme privilege of the professional game as opposed to the amateur game. 1917 saw the dissolution of the NHA, and the formation of the National Hockey League (NHL) in Montreal, Canada, which remains the sport's major league today. The NHL had three teams in the southern U.S. Sunbelt in the early 1970s, but teams in Oakland (known as California) and Atlanta were less successful and had to be relocated. But in 1991 the league embarked on a new and still relatively successful market capture operation for the U.S. Sunbelt, first with a club in San Jose and then with new teams in Tampa Bay, Anaheim, and Miami (known as Florida).

  The Minnesota team relocated to Dallas in 1993. The NHL had 26 teams in the United States and Canada by 1995.

  Of all the teams in the league, the Montreal Canadiens are arguably the most successful, as the team has won 24 Stanley Cups in its history and is the only one of the four major professional sports in North America to win more championships than the New York Yankees of Major League Baseball.

  During the 1920s and 1930s, the league underwent a series of expansions: the Hamilton Tigers joined the league during the 1920-1921 season; the Boston Bruins and Montreal Maroon joined during the 1924-1925 season; the New York Americans and Pittsburgh Pirates entered during the 1925-1926 seasons; and the New York Rangers, Chicago Blackhawks, and Detroit Cougars (now known as the Detroit By the end of the 1930-1931 season, the NHL had 10 teams. The NHL was reduced to six teams due to a combination of factors such as the league-mandated cost per club at the time, an ever-lengthening schedule, and the economic depression. These six teams (Montreal Canadiens, Toronto Maple Leafs, Detroit Red Wings, Chicago Blackhawks, Boston Bears, and New York Rangers) were called the ORIGINAL SIX, meaning the original six. The next quarter century was a stable six-team period in NHL history.

  During the 1920s and 1930s, the league underwent a series of expansions: the Hamilton Tigers joined the league during the 1920-1921 season; the Boston Bruins and Montreal Maroon joined during the 1924-1925 season; the New York Americans and Pittsburgh Pirates entered during the 1925-1926 season; and the New York Rangers, Chicago Blackhawks, and Detroit Cougars (now known as the Detroit By the end of the 1930-1931 season, the NHL had 10 teams.

  The NHL was reduced to six teams due to a combination of factors, such as the cost per club being set by the league at the time, the ever-lengthening schedule, and the economic depression.

        These six teams (Montreal Canadiens, Toronto Maple Leafs, Detroit Red Wings, Chicago Blackhawks, Boston Bears, and New York Rangers) are known as the ORIGINAL SIX, meaning the original six. The next quarter-century was a steady six-team period in NHL history.

  1967 was the NHL's fastest annual expansion year, with the rise of the Western Hockey League leading to another expansion of the NHL since the 1920s, resulting in six new teams joining the league and being assigned to entirely new divisions. The six teams were the Philadelphia Flyers, St. Louis Blues, Minnesota Stars, Los Angeles Kings, Oakland Sea Lions (which merged with the Minnesota Stars in 1976), and Pittsburgh Penguins. three years later, the NHL increased the number of teams by absorbing the World HockeyAssociation and other expansions to 21 teams. By the early 1990s, the NHL was in the process of expanding to 21 teams.

  By the early 1990s, the NHL further added five new teams, the San Jose Sharks, Ottawa Senators, Tampa Bay Lightning, Anaheim Ducks and Florida Panthers. As we approached 2000, the NHL added four more teams: the Nashville Predators (1998), Atlanta Long Tail Turtles (1999), Minnesota Wilderness, and Columbus Blue Jackets (all added in 2000), for a total of 30 teams. After years of growth, and after a series of expansions, there are now 30 teams, 24 of which are located in the United States and 6 in Canada.


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