NHL History

Wed, 11 Feb 2009 02:52

NHL History

The history of the NHL- National Hockey League.

The National Hockey League or NHL is the professional ice hockey league in North America. It is currently composed of 30 teams divided into two groups, the Western and Eastern conferences. Each conference has three divisions, with the teams divided between them. The divisions in the West are the Central, Northwest, and the Pacific. Meanwhile, the Eastern Conference divisions include the Atlantic, Northeast, and Southeast. The NHL is among the top sporting leagues in North America alongside the National Football League, the National Basketball Association, and Major League Baseball.

The league started in 1917 after the National Hockey Association folded due to a dispute with the team owner of the Toronto Blueshirts. During that time, there were three other franchises going against the Blueshirts. These were the Montreal Canadiens, the Montreal Wanderers, and the Ottawa Senators. The three decided to form their own league so the NHL was created. However, the NHL was up against other hockey leagues such as the Pacific Coast Hockey Association and the Western Canada Hockey League. In 1924, the NHL went cross-country by letting the Boston Bruins join. By 1926, ten teams were already in the NHL.

To further establish themselves among the other hockey leagues, the NHL made a deal with the trustees of the Stanley Cup so that they have full control of the cup. The NHL would encounter problems during the Great Depression and the time of World War II so the league was forced to reduce its teams to six clubs. From 1942 to 1966, the NHL only had the Boston Bruins, the Chicago Black Hawks, the Detroit Red Wings, the Montreal Canadiens, the New York Rangers, and the Toronto Maple Leafs. There were various players who became famous during this time. Maurice Richard was the first person to have 50 goals in a season, which happened during the 1944-1945 season. The league would also see Gordie Howe play from 1946 to 1981.

Expanding the league

In 1967, six teams joined the NHL. These were the Los Angeles Kings, the Minnesota North Stars, the Oakland Seals, the Philadelphia Flyers, the Pittsburgh Penguins, and the St. Louis Blues. The teams would be moved into two divisions, with the old teams going to the East Division and the newcomers in the West. By 1974, six more teams would join the league. These included the Vancouver Canucks, the Buffalo Sabres, the Atlanta Flames, the New York Islanders, the Kansas City Scouts, and the Washington Capitals. Although many teams have joined the NHL, the league had serious competition with the World Hockey Association before it folded in 1979.

The WHA tried to get many players from the NHL to join them. Among those enticed by the WHA was Bobby Hull, who was signed by the Winnipeg Jets for $2.75 million. During the mid-1970s, the NHL would participate in international events. They would send their top Canadian players to the Summit Series where they would match up against the best players from the Soviet Union. The series would then be called the Canada Cup from 1975 to 1991. The overall winner of these series of events was the Canadians with a record of 4 wins, 3 losses, and 1 tie. In 1989, many Soviet-Bloc players were allowed to join the NHL, thus the series would be ended.

More teams join the NHL

The NHL would also get some of the teams from the defunct WHA. These are the Edmonton Oilers, the Hartford Whalers, the Quebec Nordiques, and the Winnipeg Jets. The NHL would have a total of 21 teams, which would only change in 1991 when the San Jose Sharks joined the league. By 2008, the NHL already boasted of 30 teams as the Tampa Bay Lightning, the Ottawa Senators, the Anaheim Ducks, the Florida Panthers, the Nashville Predators, the Atlanta Thrashers, the Colombus Blue Jackets, and the Minnesota Wild joined the league.

There were some labor disputes over the NHL seasons. Notable years include the 1994-1995 and the 2004-2005 seasons. The league would even stop its operations during the 2004-2005 season as the agreement would only be settled later that year. Although these mishaps happened, the NHL saw many outstanding events in the modern era. Wayne Gretzky became NHL’s all-time leading scorer in 1994, surpassing Gordie Howe’s record. Also, Mario Lemieux would overcome a major sickness to post more than 1,700 points and two championships before retiring.

The division of teams into conferences happened in 1974. Back then, the conferences were known as Campbell and Wales. Campbell would represent the West teams while Wales would stand for the East. There were two divisions per conference. For the Campbell or West side, the divisions were known as Smythe and Norris while the Wales or East side had Adams and Patrick. In 1993, the NHL made significant changes by simplifying the regions into geographical terms.

Know the NHL rules

A single NHL game is played for 60 minutes with three 20-minute periods. The team with the most goals by the end of the regulation time wins. However, there are cases when both teams have equal number of goals by the end of the regulation period. Thus, an overtime period with 5 minutes on the clock is played. Before the 2005-2006 season, games which end in a tie score by the end of overtime will be called a tie. The rules have been changed after that season. The teams should play a shootout if there is a tie by the end of overtime. In the shootout, three players from each team would take turns in getting a penalty shot. The team with the most goals by the end of the shootout wins the match. Yet, there are instances where ties still occur after the shootout. The teams would be forced to have sudden death elimination.

A regular season in the NHL would usually be played from the first week of October up until mid-April. A total of 82 games are played by each team, with 41 of those at their home rink and 41 in the opponent’s arena. There are points given to the winning teams and for those that make it to overtime. Two points are awarded to the winner in either the regulation period or overtime. One point is given to the team that loses via overtime or shootout while no points are awarded to teams that lose in the regulation period. The team with the most points in their division would be known as the division champion.

To qualify for the playoffs, teams would either be the division champions or have a larger number of points than the weaker teams. Only eight teams make it to the playoffs and one would be ultimately crowned the NHL champion. The winners would be handed the Stanley Cup, the championship trophy of the NHL. Teams who have won the Stanley Cup are given the rights to engrave the name of the club, the players, and the management to the trophy. It is not surprising that various errors and mishaps have happened to the Stanley Cup. Yet, many players take pride in seeing their names in the trophy, forever cementing themselves in the rich history of the NHL.