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The National Hockey League (NHL) is North America’s premier men’s ice hockey organization, but its notoriety is internationally recognized. Although it is not the first ice hockey league for professionals in North America—that title belongs to the International Pro Hockey League which was founded in Michigan in 1904—it is the most longstanding and profitable, making it the reigning league today. In 1917, the NHL was established in Montreal, Quebec in Canada, wherein teams would compete annually, hoping to win the Stanley Cup. A little-known fact is that the oldest professional trophy in North American sports is the Stanley Cup.
Now, there are 31 teams in the NHL, who all long for the trophy. 7 are from Canada, and 24 are from the United States. Each team is made up of right defense, left defense, center, left wing, right wing, and goalie. These 31 teams are divided by conference, rather than country: Eastern Conference (Atlantic and Metropolitan Divisions) and Western Conference (Central and Pacific Divisions). Post-season, several teams per conference compete in play-offs. Something that makes NHL hockey unique is that the top teams from each division are chosen, as well as two wild-card teams with the best records, not counting division affiliation. These teams face off until the champions of each conference compete in a series of seven games for the Stanley Cup.
Some of the most notable teams in the NHL today are: Toronto Maple Leafs, Detroit Red Wings, Pittsburgh Penguins, Boston Bruins, Edmonton Oilers, Chicago Blackhawks, and Montreal Canadiens. Some of the most celebrated names in NHL include: Wayne Gretzky, Alexander Ovechkin, Mark Messier, Mario Lemieux, Gordie Howe, Steve Yzerman, Bobby Orr, Bobby Hull, Nicklas Lidstrom, Paul Coffey, Maurice Richard, Patrick Kane, Stan Mikita, Ted Lindsay, Martin Broder, Connor McDavid, and Sidney Crosby.
When there are so many other sports to see, what makes hockey special? The ice is a major factor. There are few sports where spectators can sit in a dome of ice. The cool down upon entering the building is unmistakable and energizing. The speed and agility that players can achieve on ice is incredible to see. Another element of hockey that makes it engaging for viewers is the autonomy of players. What other sport—that’s not a combat sport—is known for spontaneous fights and spurts of aggression? Anything can happen. Player are known for finishing games with broken bones, missing teeth, and bad blisters. Do not hesitate to give this game a go in person; you might be inspired to buy season tickets for next season, too.