Please note that due to COVID-19 and travel restrictions, the NHL divisions have temporarily changed for the 2021 season. The below divisions are the temporary changes, and it is expected that the divisions will return to normal for the 2021-22 season.

Also, the 2021-22 season sees a new team enter the NHL, the Seattle Kraken, who will play in the Pacific Division and will see the Arizona Coyotes move to the Central Division (pre-COVID division names / teams) to balance out the four divisions, which will each have eight teams competing.

NHL History

After the National Hockey Association (NHA) suspended its operations in 1917, there was a void in the ice-hockey industry, so the National Hockey League (NHL) was formed in Montreal and it filled the void left by the NHA. 

To begin with, the NHL only had four teams all in Canada, but by 1924 the league expanded to America and the Boston Bruins became one of the first American teams to join the league. Since then the NHL has only consisted of teams in Canada and America. 

Although, a few years later the league was relatively small and they only had six teams competing from 1942 to 1967, commonly referred to as the “Original Six”. The “Original Six” were made of the Boston Bruins, Chicago Black Hawks, Detroit Red Wings, Montreal Canadiens, New York Rangers and the Toronto Maple Leafs. 

However, the NHL then introduced the Los Angeles Kings, Minnesota North Stars, Oakland Seals, Philadelphia Flyers, Pittsburgh Penguins, and the St Louis Blues in 1967 to the league and they now had 12 teams competing. 

Three years later in 1970, the league introduced another Canadian team, the Vancouver Canucks along with the Buffalo Sabres, however, two years later the NHL which had been going for 55 years faced a somewhat battle as in 1972 a new league emerged to rival the NHL with the introduction of the World Hockey Association. 

By 1979 the WHA who through its existence introduced the New York Islanders, Atlanta Flames and Winnipeg Jets. That same year the two leagues merged together as both leagues were in trouble financially after the NHL tried to remove the WHA in court. 

The 2021-22 season sees a new team enter the NHL, the Seattle Kraken, who will play in the Pacific Division and will see the Arizona Coyotes move to the Central Division to balance out the four divisions, which will each have eight teams competing.

The NHL now consists of 32 teams split into two conferences with two divisions the Eastern Conference and the Western Conference. The divisions were different in each conference as the Eastern Conference has the Atlantic and Metropolitan Divisions, while in the Western Conference has the Central and Pacific Divisions. These divisions were temporarily changed from the 2020-21 season due to COVID-19 travel restrictions.

NHL Dominant Decades

Since the NHL began in 1917 no one has dominated the NHL quite like the Montreal Canadiens. While they won the Stanley Cup in the mid-1920s, early 1930s and mid to late 40s, none were as dominant as they were in the late 50s appearing in nine successive Stanley Cups while winning five consecutive times from 1951 to 1960, winning it in 1953, 1956, 1957, 1958, 1959 and 1960. 

The Canadiens were also dominant in the late 60s appearing in the Stanley Cup in 1965 (in which they won), 1966 (won), 1967, 1968 (won) 1969 (won), while they also won it in the late 70s, claiming the 1976, 1977, 1978 and 1979 Stanley Cups. 

Two teams dominated the 1980s, as the New York Islanders dominated the beginning of the 80s where they won the Stanley Cup in 1980, 1981, 1982 and 1983, while the Edmonton Oilers took over from 1984 where they won the Stanley Cup in 1984, 1985, 1987, 1988 and again in 1990. 

The Detroit Red Wings were also talk of the town in the NHL as they have had two golden periods where they dominated from 1947-1956 claiming the Stanley Cup in 1950, 1952, 1954 and 1955. The second was between 1994 to 2002 where they appeared in the Stanley Cup in 1995 and winning it in 1997, 1998 and in 2002. 

In the modern era of the NHL the Chicago Black Hawks have been the most dominant teams where they have won three Stanley Cups from 2010 to 2015, winning it in 2010, 2013 and 2015. 

Stanley Cup

The Stanley Cup is one of the most prized possessions in world sport, and it is also the oldest trophy in North America as it was introduced in 1893 named after Lord Stanley of Preston who was the Governor General of Canada. 

The inaugural winner of the Stanley Cup was awarded to the Montreal Hockey Club in 1893 where they won the Dominion Hockey Challenge Cup. By 1947, the NHL took sole ownership of the trophy and the winners of the NHL and the WHA battled it out to have their team engraved in it. 

Since the NHL era, the Montreal Canadians have won it the most times, at 24. They have also appeared in the Stanley Cup 34 times, while the Toronto Maple Leafs have won it the second most times with 13. 

There are a few teams that have only won the Stanley Cup once they are, the Dallas Stars, St Louis Blues, Calgary Flames, Anaheim Ducks, Carolina Hurricanes and the Washington Capitals. The Buffalo Sabres, Florida Panthers, Nashville Predators, Ottawa Senators, San Jose Sharks, Vancouver Canucks and Minnesota Wild have not won the Stanley Cup. 

NHL Legend Players

There have been many great players to step foot in the rink, but perhaps none more so than Wayne Gretzky. The former Edmonton Oilers, LA Kings and New York Rangers player created plenty of records in the NHL since he first stepped foot in the rink in 1979 until he stepped out for the final time in 1999. 

Gretzky was one of a kind and he scored the most goals in a regular season with 894 goals from 1,485 games, most goals including the playoffs with 122. He also had a knack of finding goals in the regular season.

He scored the most goals in a regular season with 92 during the 1981-82 season, while his goal scoring record is impressive he also acquired the most assists with 1,962 including most assists in the playoffs with 2,222, while also winning four Stanley Cups. 

While Gretzky may be the greatest player to ever step foot in the rink, Gordie Howe is also in consideration as the greatest player ever to play the game. Howe began his career at the Detroit Red Wings as he made his debut in the 1946-47 season and ended his tenure in the rink from 1979-80 with the Hartford Whalers. 

Throughout his career Howe scored the second most goals in the regular season with 801 over 1,767 games (26 seasons), and had the second most goals including the playoffs with 869 goals scored from 801 regular season games and 68 games from the playoffs. 

NHL All-Star Game

Just like many other professional sport leagues in North America, the NHL includes an All-Star game showcasing the best of the best in the NHL. Like in the Major League Baseball and the NHL All-Star game signifies the halfway point of the season and is played in either January or February. 

While the current format of the NHL All-Star game consists of four teams (Atlantic, Pacific, Central and Metropolitan) competing against each other in a mini tournament, it wasn’t always the case. 

The first format of the All-Star game occurred in 1947, which saw the Stanley Cup winners take on a team that consisted of players around the league called the All-Stars. The All- Stars won the first three games before the Detroit Red Wings became the first Stanley Cup Champions to defeat the All-Stars. 

That was the case until 1970 when the league changed the format to make it an East vs West contest, while in 1975 the East team became known as Wales while the Western Conference became known as Campbell and this continued until the 1994 season where it was once again back to the East vs West series. 

From their the NHL tinkered with a few variations of the game as they had World vs North America (1998-2002), Team Lidstrom vs Team Staal (2011), Team Chara vs Team Alfredsson (2012), Team Towes vs Team Foligno before settling on Atlantic, Metropolitan, Central and Pacific in 2016. 

Betting on the NHL

It wasn’t too long ago that you weren’t allowed to bet on the NHL, but now there are more ways to bet than ever, with the NHL recently allowing sportsbooks to sponsor the league, with BetMGM, William Hill (who are also sponsors of the New Jersey Red Devils and the Vegas Golden Knights) and FanDuel all being the major wagering partners of the NHL. 

Here at SportsTips, we provide you with the best in-depth analysis of the best NHL picks and parlays as well as expert NHL predictions for every game, every week. We also keep a close eye on the all important odds, if you want to know more about NHL odds, make sure you check out that page.

For an in-depth explanation on how NHL betting works, the most popular NHL markets and payout examples, check out our NHL betting page! It is important to get all the necessary information before placing your NHL bets, you want to pick a winner right?!

NHL Teams FAQs

Who is predicted to win the Stanley Cup?

The Tampa Bay Lightning won the 2019-2020 Stanley Cup defeating the Dallas Stars. That hasn’t stopped the betting for next year’s Stanley Cup as the currently defending champions the Lightning are favorites for the Stanley Cup in the 2021 season and they are paying +750, while the Vegas Golden Knights are the second favorites for the Stanley Cup and they are marked at +800. 

How are the NHL All-Star teams picked? 

While most of the players are already picked for the All-Star game to represent the Atlantic, Central, Pacific and Metropolitan fans can vote for the last player in each of those teams through the Last Men which fans get to cast their vote through the NHL website on which players get the last spot. 

Who has the first pick in the NHL draft?

The New York Rangers had the first pick in the NHL 2020 draft in which they chose winger Alexis Lafreniere. 

How many picks are in the NHL draft?

In total there are seven rounds which consists of 217 draft picks. 

How do you read NHL odds?

There are multiple different types of displaying and reading odds, including American, fraction and decimal odds. For information on different odd types, how to read odds and how to do the math on how much money you might win, check our betting guides page

How to bet on the NHL playoffs? 

SportsTips will provide you with current odds, spreads, over / under totals and all the NHL information you need before making any bets. There are multiple different betting agencies available to bet on NHL games including PointsBet, FanDuel and DraftKings among others, as of June 10th, there are only 18 states with legalized sports betting. If you want to know which sportsbooks are available in your state, check out our sportsbook review page.

How to watch the NHL playoffs?

There are many ways to watch the NHL playoffs such as through NBCSN, NHL Network, and the USA network. 

How do the NHL playoffs work?

The NHL playoffs or the Stanley Cup playoffs as they are called consists of four playoff rounds which have seven games in each playoff match. There are 16 teams that make up the Stanley Cup playoffs which are the top three teams of each division. 

The other spots in the playoff are made up of teams who have the next two highest placed teams based on the regular season, sometimes one division can send five teams from the conference compared to the normal three teams. 

The teams with the best record in the division will play the wildcard team (the team with the lesser record), while the other wildcard team (the one with the better record) will play against the other division winner. In other words teams that did finish second and third in their respective division will face the division winner and from there the winners progress in a bracket filled system. 

What does the NHL stand for?

The NHL stands for the National Hockey League. 

Who has the most Stanley Cups?

The Montreal Canadiens have the most Stanley Cups winning it 24 times while appearing in it 34 times. 

When is the NHL All-Star Game?

The NHL All-Star game is normally played in January or February, as it signifies the midway point of the NHL season.  

When does the NHL regular season start?

The NHL season normally starts in early October. 

How long is an NHL game?

A normal NHL game roughly lasts 2.5 hours to 3 hours. 

When do the NHL playoffs start?

The Stanley Cup playoffs usually starts in mid April and usually finishes in early June. 

How many games are there in an NHL season?

Each team usually plays 82 games each in the NHL season. 

What does against the spread in the NHL mean?

The spread is the number of points that the sportsbooks think the favorite should win the game by. The bigger the favorite is for the game, the bigger their points spread they have to cover to win the spread bet.