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National Hockey League
The National Hockey League (NHL) is not only the premier professional ice hockey league in the United States of America and Canada, but the entire world. Players from all over Europe, Russia, and the former Soviet republics all eventually dream of playing on the NHL stage. In Canada, the NHL is easily considered to be the most dominantly covered and discussed league, while in the United States, it sits squarely among the country’s “big four” professional sports leagues (along with the National Football League, National Basketball Association, and Major League Baseball).
The NHL is comprised of 31 teams, with 24 being based in the United States and seven in Canada. However, when the league was first formed, there were only four teams, all of which were located in Canada. That’s why the league is still referred to as “National,” even though it has now become an international league. In 1924, the league expanded to the United States, with the enrollment of the Boston Bruins into the league. In 1967, the league added another six teams, to join the six team-league that had been playing since 1942. Since then, the league underwent several more expansions, increasing to 18 teams in 1974, then 21 teams in 1979. In the 1990’s, the league’s revenue and popularity began to explode, thanks to the influx of superstar players like Wayne Gretzky and Mario Lemieux (and the spotlight they brought to the league). In that plus the following decade, the league grew to the 31 teams that now know it as today.
NHL Competition and Final Events
The Stanley Cup, awarded each year to the winner of the Stanley Cup championship series, which is the league’s championship match. The cup is named after Lord Stanley of Preston, who was historically known as one of the first great hockey enthusiasts. His position as the Governor General of Canada, appointed by Queen Victoria late in the 19th century, helped his name become affixed to the trophy.
The International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) has called the Stanley Cup to be one of the “most important championships available to the sport,” and the ceremony in which the players pass and receive the cup among themselves after their championship triumph is one of the greatest scenes in sports.
The Montreal Canadiens are the NHL team who have won the championship — and the trophy — the most times, with 24 such victories. Among North American teams, the Detroit Red Wings have won the Stanley Cup 11 times, with their most recent victory taking place in 2008.
NHL Biggest News To Date
In the 2017-2018 season to date, the Tampa Bay Lightning already appeared to not only be the team with the best chance to appear in the Stanley Cup championship finals, representing the Eastern Conference, but to win the Stanley Cup outright. Yet, at the 2018 National Hockey League trading deadline, team General Manager Steve Yzerman — a former Stanley Cup-winner himself — acquired two key veteran players from the New York Rangers (defenseman Ryan McDonagh and forward J.T. Miller), which have appeared to bolster the team’s likelihood of becoming champions. Many prognosticators have placed the Lightning as heavy favorites to win the championship.