A look at the NHL’s history, from its humble beginnings to its present status as a premier professional hockey league.
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The NHL’s origins
The National Hockey League (NHL) is a professional ice hockey league composed of 30 member clubs: 23 in the United States and 7 in Canada. Headquartered in New York City, the NHL is considered to be the premier professional ice hockey league in the world, and one of the North American major professional sports leagues.
The Stanley Cup, which is awarded to the league playoff champion at the end of each season, is the oldest professional sports trophy in North America. The National Hockey League was organized on November 26, 1917, at the Windsor Hotel in Montreal after suspensions of operations of its predecessor organizations, the National Hockey Association (NHA) and the Pacific Coast Hockey Association (PCHA), both of which were founded in 1911. The NHL immediately took control of Maple Leafs Gardens arena and about 50 players who were under contract with those two leagues.
The first NHL teams
In 1917, the NHL was formed as a response to the suspension of the National Hockey Association (NHA). The first teams to join the NHL were the Montreal Canadiens, Montreal Wanderers, Ottawa Senators, and Toronto Arenas. These four teams were all from the NHA.
The NHL’s first seasons
The National Hockey League (NHL) was founded in 1917, with the first season played in 1918. The league originally consisted of five teams: the Montreal Canadiens, Montreal Wanderers, Ottawa Senators, Quebec Bulldogs, and Toronto Arenas. By 1926, the league had grown to ten teams.
The NHL’s first seasons were marked by intense rivalries between the league’s Canadian teams. The most famous rivalry was between the Canadiens and the Wanderers, who were both based in Montreal. This rivalry came to an abrupt end in 1918 when the Wanderers’ arena burned down.
The early years of the NHL were also marked by a number of ‘firsts’. The first Stanley Cup victory by an NHL team was achieved by the Montreal Canadiens in 1919. The first goal in NHL history was scored by Montreal’s Odie Cleghorn in 1918. And the first player to be suspended from the NHL was Ottawa’s Mike May for hitting a referee with his stick in 1920.
The NHL’s first Stanley Cup champions
The first Stanley Cup was awarded in 1893 to the Montreal Amateur Athletic Association (AAA), champions of the Amateur Hockey Association (AHA) of Canada. The AAA later became the Windsor Aces of the Canadian Amateur Hockey League (CAHL). The team, which consisted mostly of British immigrants, was dominant in Canadian hockey, winning the Stanley Cup seven times in eight seasons between 1894 and 1897.
In 1914, the National Hockey Association (NHA) was formed as a professional hockey league. The NHA’s first champion was the Montreal Canadiens, who defeated the Toronto Blueshirts in the 1914 Stanley Cup Finals. The Canadiens went on to win the Stanley Cup again in 1915 and 1916. In 1917, the NHA suspended operations due to World War I, and the Montreal Canadiens were sold to a new owners who formed the NHL.
The NHL’s first Stanley Cup champions were the Ottawa Senators, who defeated the Seattle Metropolitans in 1917. The Senators went on to win the Stanley Cup again in 1920 and 1921. In 1922, the NHL expanded into Western Canada with the formation of two new teams:
The NHL’s first superstar players
NHL history is full of superstar players who have thrilled fans and changed the game. In the early days of the league, players like Eddie Shore and Howie Morenz were the first superstars and helped to put the NHL on the map. In the 1940s, Gordie Howe and Maurice Richard became the faces of the league and helped to lead their teams toMultiple Stanley Cup victories. In more recent years, players like Wayne Gretzky, Mario Lemieux, and Sidney Crosby have continued to elevate the NHL and bring in new fans from around the world.
The NHL’s expansion years
The National Hockey League (NHL) is a professional ice hockey league, founded in 1917. It consists of 31 teams from the United States and Canada, divided into two conferences: the Eastern Conference and the Western Conference. The NHL’s expansion years were from 1967-74, when the league doubled in size from six to 12 teams.
In 1967, the NHL added six new teams: the Los Angeles Kings, Minnesota North Stars, Philadelphia Flyers, Pittsburgh Penguins, St. Louis Blues and California Seals (later the Oakland/California/San Jose Sharks). These expansion teams were placed in the newly created Western Division. The Eastern Division consisted of the Original Six teams: the Boston Bruins, Chicago Blackhawks, Detroit Red Wings, Montreal Canadiens, New York Rangers and Toronto Maple Leafs.
The NHL continued to expand in 1974 when it added four more teams: the Atlanta Flames (later moved to Calgary), Buffalo Sabres, New York Islanders and Vancouver Canucks. The NHL’s realignment in 1974 saw these four new teams join the East Division, while three of the Original Six moved to the West Division (the Chicago Blackhawks were placed in the newly created Central Division).
During these expansion years, the NHL saw an increase in popularity and attendance. The introduction of new teams led to new rivalries and a more competitive league overall. This period of growth was pivotal for the NHL, laying the foundation for it to become one of the most popular professional sports leagues in North America.
The NHL’s modern era
Since the 1967 expansion, the NHL has consisted of thirty teams: Twenty-four in the United States and six in Canada. The league is currently divided into two conferences, the Eastern Conference and the Western Conference, each of which is composed of three divisions. The winner of each division during the regular season is awarded a playoff berth.
In addition to the regular season standings, teams also compete for two other trophies. The Presidents’ Trophy is awarded to the team with the most points in the league and home ice advantage throughout the playoffs. The Stanley Cup, which is the most prestigious trophy in all of professional hockey, goes to the playoff champions.
The NHL’s modern era has seen some of the most talented players ever to take to the ice. In addition to superstars like Mario Lemieux, Wayne Gretzky, and Gordie Howe, some of today’s brightest stars include Alexander Ovechkin, Sidney Crosby, and Patrick Kane.
The NHL’s greatest players
While the National Hockey League has only been around since 1917, it has seen some of the greatest athletes in history don its jerseys. Players like Gordie Howe, Bobby Orr, and Wayne Gretzky have thrilled fans for generations with their skill on the ice.
In recent years, the NHL has seen a resurgence in popularity, thanks in part to players like Sidney Crosby and Alexander Ovechkin. These young superstars are poised to take their place among the all-time greats of the game.
The NHL’s greatest moments
The National Hockey League has seen its share of great moments over the years. Here are just a few of the most memorable:
The first Stanley Cup championship was won by the Montreal Canadiens in 1893.
In 1917, the NHL was formed as a successor to the National Hockey Association. The first NHL season saw the Toronto Arenas win the Stanley Cup.
The Boston Bruins won the first Stanley Cup championship in the NHL’s modern era in 1929.
In 1942, Toronto Maple Leafs defenseman Bill Barilko scored the winning goal in overtime of Game 5 of the Stanley Cup Finals, giving Toronto its 10th championship. Barilko disappeared shortly after and was never seen again; his body was not found until 1962, when it was discovered in a bush plane crash near Kasan Lake in northern Ontario.
In 1950, Detroit Red Wings defenseman Leo Reise Sr. scored 11 goals and 27 assists in one game, setting an NHL record that still stands today.
In 1961, Montreal Canadiens goaltender Jacques Plante became the first goaltender to regularly wear a mask during games. Plante had been injured in a game against the New York Rangers when he was hit in the face by a puck; he returned to the game wearing a mask and went on to lead Montreal to victory.
In 1967, expansion brought six new teams into the NHL: The Los Angeles Kings, Minnesota North Stars, Philadelphia Flyers, Pittsburgh Penguins, St. Louis Blues and Oakland Seals (now San Jose Sharks).
In 1972, Boston Bruins defenseman Bobby Orr scored “The Goal,” perhaps the most famous goal in NHL history. With less than 40 seconds remaining in overtime of Game 4 of the Stanley Cup Finals and Boston trailing 3-2, Orr flew through the air after scoring the game-winning goal, given Boston its first championship since 1941.
In 1976, Philadelphia Flyers forward Reggie Leach set an NHL record by scoring 19 goals in one playoff season; he would go on to win the Conn Smythe Trophy as MVP of that year’s playoffs as Philadelphia won its first Stanley Cup championship.
In 1979-80, New York Islanders forward Mike Bossy became only the second player ever (after Maurice Richard) to score 50 goals in 50 games; he would go on to score an amazing 69 goals that season as part of one of hockey’s most potent offenses (which also included future Hall-of-Famers Bryan Trottier and Denis Potvin).
In 1986, Wayne Gretzky broke Gordie Howe’s all-time scoring record with his 1,850th point; he would finish his career with 2,857 points (an unmatched total).
The NHL’s future
Since its inception in 1917, the National Hockey League has undergone a lot of changes. The most recent and notable change being the addition of the Vegas Golden Knights in 2017. This event marked the first time that an expansion team had been added to the league in 17 years. In addition to this, the NHL has undergone a lot of realignment over the years in order to accommodate new teams and divisions. For example, when the Charlotte Hornets joined the league in 1979, they were placed in the Norris Division.