Hockey: NHL (National Hockey League)
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The National Hockey League is the premier professional sports league for ice hockey in the United States and Canada. The league is a very international league with 6 of the teams being in Canada and players from over 20 countries. The NHL is considered to be one of the big four professional leagues in the US along with the NFL, NBA, and MLB.
History of the NHL
The National Hockey League began in 1917 when a number of owners from another hockey league, the NHA, decided to leave their league and start their own. At first they had many rival leagues and they would compete against these leagues for Hockey's premier trophy, the Stanley Cup. Later the NHL came on hard times during the depression and WWII. At this point it was down to only 6 teams.
In the 1960's the NHL began to expand. It once again became a premier sports league, however, it would find itself challenged by rival leagues in the 70's. By 1980 the league was the main ice hockey league in the United States and Canada. It had expanded and had all the best players. It had also secured the right to have its championship be the Stanley Cup championship.
Today the National Hockey League consists of 30 teams, 24 in the US and 6 in Canada. The teams are divided into two conferences, Eastern and Western, each with three divisions of five teams.
For a list of the current National Hockey League teams see NHL teams.
NHL Season and Playoffs
Currently each NHL team plays 82 games in the regular season. They play 41 at home and 41 games away. They play the majority of their games against teams in their own division, but they also play each team in the league at least once.
The standings in the NHL are determined somewhat differently than other professional leagues. Teams get points for how they do in each game. If they win the game they get two points. If they lose in regulation, they get 0 points. If they lose in overtime or a shootout, they get 1 point.
Sixteen teams make the playoffs. Each of the division leaders and the next five highest point scorers from each conference get into the playoffs. The playoffs are elimination series. The series are best-of-seven series where the first team to 4 wins moves ahead and the other team is eliminated. The final series between the two conference winners, is the Stanley Cup Finals.
Fun Facts about the NHL
- There is only one Stanley Cup trophy. It was donated by Sir Frederick Stanley in 1892. The winning team gets to have it while they are champions. All of the players and coaches names are engraved into the cup.
- Patrick Roy was the first goalie to get 500 wins.
- The Stanley Cup is the oldest trophy competed for in North American professional sports.
- According to marketing studies, the average NHL fan is wealthier and more educated than the average professional golf fan.
- There were once six brothers from the Sutter family playing in the NHL at the same time.
- Wayne Gretzky held or shared 61 NHL records when he retired.
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