The NHL is presently a ten-team league with two divisions: American and Canadian. The NHL gained ownership of the Stanley Cup. Previously, in the Cup finals, the winners of the now-defunct Western or Pacific Coast leagues would face the NHL champion. Hugh Aird and Conn Smythe's new firm purchased the Toronto franchise. The team was renamed the Maple Leafs.
An agreement was reached between the National Hockey League (NHL) and the players' association on June 20, 1979, after more than a year of negotiations. The deal ended an owners' lockout that began in July 1977 when no new contracts were signed by any of the club owners. The previous contract had expired after the 1976-77 season. The new agreement added a salary cap for the first time to ensure financial stability for all teams. It also provided for free agency after one season instead of over a series of years as before. The agreement received widespread support from the public and media.
Other changes included the elimination of division titles, the creation of a new trophy called the Lord Stanley's Cup, and changes to playoff formats and seeding. Under the new system, which takes effect with the 1979-80 season, each team will be given a number of points based on their finish within their division. The top five teams in each division will qualify for the playoffs, which will consist of a best-of-five series between the first-place teams and then the second-and third-place teams.
The Canadiens of Montreal The Montreal Canadiens have won the Stanley Cup more times than any other team, with a total of 24. The Canadiens, founded in 1909, are the longest continually functioning professional ice hockey team and the only extant NHL club to predate the NHL itself. They are also the only team to have never moved city.
The Toronto Maple Leafs The Toronto Maple Leafs have won the Cup most recently in 1967. They are the oldest franchise in the NHL, having debuted in Toronto on February 8, 1917. Originally known as the Toronto St. Patricks, they changed their name before their first season ended.
The New York Rangers The New York Rangers have won the Cup three times - the most of any non-Montreal team. They are the second-oldest franchise in the NHL, having debuted on November 17, 1926.
The Chicago Black Hawks The Chicago Black Hawks have won the Cup twice - the most of any non-Canadian team. They are the third-oldest franchise in the NHL, having debuted on November 6, 1926.
The Boston Bruins The Boston Bruins have won the Cup four times - most of any non-Canadian or American team. They are the fourth-oldest franchise in the NHL, having debuted on November 27, 1924.
The division is the only one in the NHL that does not include any of the Original Six clubs. Due to the COVID-19 epidemic and the consequent border restriction between Canada and the United States, all eight clubs were split into two divisions for the 2020–21 NHL season. The winner of each division will play in the Stanley Cup final.
The current format was introduced in 2013 when two new teams entered the league: the Montreal Canadiens and the New York Rangers. Before then, there had been a total of six franchises in six different cities. Each new team was placed in one of the four existing divisions; the Atlantic Division included the Boston Bruins, Buffalo Sabres, and Tampa Bay Lightning; the Metropolitan Division included the Chicago Blackhawks, Columbus Blue Jackets, and Washington Capitals; the Central Division included the Dallas Stars, Minnesota Wild, and St. Louis Blues; and the Pacific Division included the Anaheim Ducks, Calgary Flames, and Vancouver Canucks.
The decision to divide the league into divisions was intended to make the playoff format more interesting and give less-familiar teams a chance. Previously, after the first round of games, the top team in each division went on to play against the top team from the other three divisions. This ensured that no team was able to completely dominate their conference or group of four teams.
Canadians from Montreal The Toronto Maple Leafs may be the most valued NHL club, but the Montreal Canadians have historically been the most successful. The team has 23 Stanley Cup victories, the most recent being in 1993. They also hold the record for the best regular season record with a.632 winning percentage.
The Vancouver Canucks have never won the Stanley Cup but they have made the playoffs every year since their first season in 1970 and have reached the second round twice - 1994 and 2011-12. In 1994, the Canucks were defeated by the Chicago Blackhawks in seven games. In 2011-12, they faced off against the Boston Bruins in the opening round and were defeated in five games. Both times, the winner went on to win the Cup.
The Edmonton Oilers have never missed the playoffs but they've never come close to winning the Cup either. The team was founded in 1960 in Toronto but moved to Oklahoma City for the 1995 season before settling in Edmonton four years later. They've never finished higher than fourth place nor have they ever won a cup.
The Calgary Flames are one of the newest teams in the NHL and they've only reached the playoffs once so far - 1998. That same year, the Flames lost in the first round to the Colorado Avalanche.
In conclusion, the Canadiens are the most successful team in the history of the NHL.
Despite its name, the NHL is made up of 31 clubs from both Canada and the United States, with Canadian-born players continuing to be the league's largest population. The Montreal Canadiens have had the most successful career, with four Stanley Cup victories.
There has been discussion about adding more Canadian teams, but no serious efforts have been made at expansion since 1999. When the Montreal Expos moved to Washington D.C. after the 2004 season, that left just two Canadian teams - the Toronto Maple Leafs and Vancouver Canucks - and no obvious path toward adding more.
The number of Canadian teams has varied over time due to relocation and cancellation. There were 30 teams in the NHL when it began in 1917, but two franchises were based in Quebec (the Montreal Canadiens and the Quebec Bulldogs) and thus could not play any home games outside of their home province. The Ottawa Senators joined the NHL in 1924, but they also could not play any home games outside of their home province. In 1972, the team was relocated to Arizona where they became the Phoenix Coyotes. In 1979, the Chicago Black Hawks moved to Winnipeg where they currently remain. In 1995, the Colorado Avalanche joined the NHL as an expansion team. They were born out of a merger between the Minnesota North Stars and the Chicago Blackhawks. This means there are now 32 teams in the NHL.
Of course, the now-defunct International Hockey League existed for many decades as a North American feeder league for NHL teams.