National Hockey League


The National Hockey League, also known as the NHL, is the fourth largest sports organization that operates within the United States. The NHL is based in New York City and is a non-profit association. Many people from all across the globe considered the NHL the premier organization for the sport of hockey. Millions of people all across the globe watch hockey games during a given season and thousands annually attend games. The NHL even has members that participate in the Winter Olympic Games whenever they take place. This particular sports league is also a multi-million dollar business and uses its franchises to support charities and social causes within the communities that they represent.


The NHL first started in 1917 within the country of Canada. However, the sport of hockey itself was played for hundreds of years in Northern Europe. As settlers from Europe begin to make Canada their home during the 18th and 19th centuries they brought the game of hockey with them. In 1875, a Canadian named J.G. Creighton established the first set rules for ice hockey. Up until now, most people only played hockey on a field. With the establishment of rules for ice hockey, it became a major cultural sport and form of recreation within Canada. The game became more than just a match between rivals or competitors, it had become an integral part of Canadian life. It was from this background that the NHL was born.

Before the NHL came into existence, the NHA or National Hockey Association was first formed. This organization was created in by Ambrose O’Brien in 1909 and consisted of seven teams that hailed from Quebec and Ontario. By 1917, the NHA was dissolved due to internal conflict and was reorganized as the NHL.

After it was formed, the NHL was an exclusively Canadian sport for seven years before adding the Boston Bruins to its league in 1924. The Bruins were the first American hockey team to join the league. Soon after, the New York Americans and the Pittsburgh Pirates both joined the league. By the 1930s there were more American franchises within the league and they were constantly changing their names. During the era of the Great Depression (1930s), many teams were affected by the downturn in the economy and folded. Only six NHL teams managed to survive during this time period and they were known as the ' Original Six.'

The Original Six consisted of the Boston Bruins, Chicago Black Hawks, Detroit Red Wings, Montreal Canadiens, New York Rangers and the Toronto Maple Leafs. These teams also earned the name of the 'Original Six' because they were constant franchises that lasted throughout the league from 1942 all the way up to 1967.

From 1967 to 1992 the NHL had begun to add more franchises to the league. This particular era in the NHL is known as the Expansion Era. Most of the franchises that are active today were established during this time period. By 1992 the league had at least twenty-two teams. The 'Modern Era of Hockey' is the latest epoch in NHL history. At least eight more teams were added to the NHL and it now has 30 teams.

Brief History of the Franchises

The NHL consists of 30 franchise members. A total of 23 franchises are located within the United States and 7 are located within Canada. Here is a brief history of these teams:

The NHL had a few more franchises at one point, but these organizations ended up folding due to their inability to make a profit or they were merged to become some of the teams that are competing today.

NHL League Structure

The NHL is controlled by a Board of Governors, which is derived from each franchise. Each franchise also has to make 2 alternates available for the board. The board also has a chairman which heads the organization. Ultimately, the board reviews and approves rule changes, hires and fires commissioners, manages matters concerning the sale, purchase and relocation of franchises, sets salary caps for players and members club, and reviews and approves changes to the game schedule. They also have additional responsibilities other than the ones that are mentioned here. A Chief Executive Commissioner also makes decisions pertaining to the league, franchises and players.

Game Rules

Hockey has an established set of rules just like any other organized professional sport. Here is a brief presentation that highlights the rules.

Hockey League rules state that:

• Two teams play a 60 minute game.

• A game is broken down into three, 20 minute periods.

• Each intermission is between 15.5 and 17 minutes long.

• Television timeouts are also added in. They can vary.

• Center Face off spots and face off circles.

• Overtime will occur when two teams are tied after regulation time.

• Players score 1 point for every goal that they make.

There are also rules for being off sides, penalties for fighting and icing the puck.

Hockey Rinks

Hockey rinks are 200 feet long and 85 feet wide and are divided by a red center line. Each official rink has neutral, defending and attacking zones divided by blue lines. Thin red goal lines are situated at both ends of the rink and two goals are placed on both sides of the rink. Penalty boxes are situated on the sides of the rink near the center.

Standard NHL Season

Each season begins with a pre-season or exhibition season in September. NHL teams play a variety of teams all over the world as well as within the league during this time. Other countries such as Russia or France could be potential competitors with NHL teams during the exhibition season. The regular NHL season begins in the first week of October and last all the way until April. During this time, each franchise will play a total of 82 games. At least half are played in a franchise’s home arena while the other half is played on the road.

Post-season or Stanley Cup Playoffs

The post-season, or Stanley Cup Playoffs, start in April and the top teams from each division compete in a series of games in order to become the Stanley Cup winners. The playoffs is an elimination tournament and teams grouped in pairs play the best of seven games. There are 3 rounds of playoffs to determine conference champions who then will play each other in the Stanley cup finals.

The league consists of 30 teams that are split up into 2 conferences and these conferences are known as Eastern and Western. The Eastern Conference has 16 teams with two divisions of 8 teams and the Western conference has 14 teams with two divisions of 7 teams. NHL regular standings are based on a point system instead of winning percentages. Teams earn 2 points for a win, 1 point for losing in overtime or a shootout and 0 for losing. At the end of the regular season, teams with the most points are the division champions. The team who has the highest overall percentage or number of points is awarded the President’s trophy.

Hockey Hall of Fame

The Hockey Hall of Fame is located in Toronto, Canada and the first class of members were inducted in 1945. Most players have to wait at least 3 years after they retire before they can be inducted into the Hall of Fame but there are some exceptions. Wayne Gretzky was such a great player that the rules were altered in order to immediately induct him once he retired from hockey in 1999. Notable inductees include Wayne Gretzky, Bobby Orr, Gordie Howe, Mario Lemieux and Maurice Richard.

Hockey Players

Many Hockey players within the NHL come from different parts of the world, but most come from Canada. Places such as Finland, Russia, and Slovakia, Sweden are places where NHL hockey players have their origins. Many players also come from the United States.

Hockey Positions

There are five positions for hockey players and they include goalie, defenseman, right wing, left wing and center. The goalie’s position is considered by many to be the toughest position to play within the sport. This person is responsible for keeping the other team from scoring points with the puck.

The defenseman’s job is to keep the other team from reaching the goalie. He can do this by playing a hardcore aggressive game or by using finesse to move the puck away from his opponents and then taking it up the ice to his teammates. A defenseman is situated on the right and left sides of the rink.

The right wing plays on the right side of the rink. He is responsible for checking the other team’s defensemen. The player in this position has to be good along the boards and in the corner.

The left wing player is an offensive player like the right wing. Ultimately, this player as well as the right wing player is responsible for trying to score points for their team. This player has to be able to play the game close to the opposing team’s goal.

Centers are responsible for controlling the game from the center of the rink. They are like the quarterback of the whole team. They have to be good at passing and face-offs. The left and right wing and center positions are also called forwards.

NHL and the Media

Many NHL games are broadcast on the NHL Network in Canada, the U.S., Europe and in Central and South America. The NHL Network is extremely popular in Canada, but has limited success in America. Some games are televised on major U.S. networks but ratings are usually not in place to make hockey in the U.S. a major televised sport. Even though hockey is not a big sport in the U.S., it still has a large enough fan base to remain a viable sporting organization among the masses. Games are also broadcast to fans over satellite radio.

The NHL is heavily involved with charity work and it supports a variety of causes. The NHL and its franchise members, send players out within various communities to interact with fans and people and to raise money for various causes such as cancer. Franchises also support schools and help to fund different projects within the communities they represent. The charity and social work that is given by the NHL is important for many millions of people who rely on this organization for assistance. Schools, medical research and community based health care facilities and local sports clubs all benefit from the efforts of the NHL and its franchises.

Sports | Hockey

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