The National Hockey League originated in 1917 with six teams, and through a sequence of team expansions, reductions, and relocations currently consists of 30 teams, 24 of which are based in the United States and six in Canada. The Montreal Canadiens are the most successful franchise with 24 Stanley Cup championships (23 as an NHL team, 1 as an NHA team); in the four major professional sports leagues the Montreal Canadiens are only surpassed in the number of championships by the New York Yankees of Major League Baseball, who have four more. The next most successful franchise is the Toronto Maple Leafs with 13 Stanley Cup championships, but they have not won one since 1967. The Detroit Red Wings, with 11 Stanley Cup championships, are the most successful American franchise. The longest streak of winning the Stanley Cup in consecutive years is five, held by the Montreal Canadiens from 1955–56 to 1959–60; the New York Islanders (1980–1983) and the Montreal Canadiens (1976–1979) have four-year championship streaks. The 1977 edition of the Montreal Canadiens, the second of four straight Stanley Cup champions, was named by ESPN as the second greatest sports team of all-time.
The current league organization divides the teams into two conferences. Each conference has three divisions, and each division has five teams. The current organization has roots in the 1998–99 season when a league realignment added two divisions to bring the total number of divisions to six; the current team alignment began with the 2000–2001 season when the Minnesota Wild and the Columbus Blue Jackets joined the league as expansion teams.
The Detroit Red Wings and the Columbus Blue Jackets are the only teams in the Western Conference that are located in the eastern time zone. This results in significantly increased travel time for both teams.
List of teamsEdit
| Ottawa Senators|
|New York Americans||1925–1942|
|St. Louis Eagles||1934–1935|
The New York Americans, in their final season were renamed the "Brooklyn Americans," in order to try and attract fans from Brooklyn. They continued to play in Madison Square Garden due to lack of a good sized playing facility in Brooklyn.
Except for Hamilton, the league did eventually return to cities that were abandoned. Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, and St. Louis gained teams in the 1967 NHL expansion, Quebec City returned though the NHL–WHA merger (though lost it again when the team moved to Denver in 1995), and Ottawa via expansion in 1992. New York City, after losing the Americans, has since added two more teams in the metro area: the New York Islanders and the New Jersey Devils. The closest Hamilton has come to receiving a team is the Buffalo Sabres, who play less than 50 miles east in Buffalo, New York; the presence of the Sabres has, so far, blocked efforts (most notably those by Jim Balsillie) to relocate a team to Hamilton. Though Montreal also lost the Wanderers, the city still had the Canadiens and thus did not totally lose NHL representation.
Relocated teams after 1967 expansionEdit
|California Golden Seals||1967–1976||Cleveland Barons|
|Kansas City Scouts||1974–1976||Colorado Rockies|
|Cleveland Barons||1976–1978|| ceased operations with merger into Minnesota North Stars|
(see also San Jose Sharks)
|Atlanta Flames||1972–1980||Calgary Flames|
|Colorado Rockies||1976–1982||New Jersey Devils|
|Minnesota North Stars||1967–1993||Dallas Stars|
|Quebec Nordiques||1979–1995||Colorado Avalanche|
|Winnipeg Jets||1979–1996||Phoenix Coyotes|
|Hartford Whalers||1979–1997||Carolina Hurricanes|