‘When hell freezes over, I’ll play hockey there too,’ such raw passion would you not agree? Hockey has been an extremely competitive sport where players often get to rile up the crowd with occasional hits and fights. Players have the advantage of setting the pace of the game, which only adds to the crowd’s anxiety, exciting right?
The game has evolved so much over the years to the game we know and love today. In its formative years, the National Hockey League faced immense trials and tribulations, and the league often found itself on the verge of collapse.
The NHL Debut
The National Hockey League begun after the National Hockey Association was dissolved in 1917 after failed attempts to resolve disputes with Eddie Livingstone, who owned the Toronto Blueshirts. Executives of the remaining three teams dissolved the NHA and ushered in the National Hockey League (NHL). The Blueshirts were replaced by a temporary unit in Toronto, the Arenas. The Pacific Coast Hockey Association and Western Canada Hockey League met head-on during the NHL’s first quarter-century.
In 1924, the Boston Bruins, commissioned by Gary Bettman, joined the NHL, furthering its expansion to the United States. By the year 1926, it comprises ten teams in the Great Lakes Region, Ontario, the Northeastern United States, and Quebec. In 1933, the NHL had put its mark across Canada, and Foster Hewitt’s broadcasted its glory from coast to coast. The NHL struck a deal with the Stanley Cup curators to acquire total control of the Stanley Cup as they were the only major league and sole contenders for the Cup in 1947.
The league was ebbed to six teams after the Great Depression and World War II, and these teams were labeled the “Original Six.” In 1944-45, Maurice Richard scored fifty goals in a season, becoming the initiatory of such a record. He was later suspended after an incursion on the linesman, resulting in the Richard Riot. Gordie Howe was premiered in 1946 and retired as the enduring leader in goals and points thirty-five seasons later. Larry Kwong “China Clipper” played for the New York Rangers in 1948 as the first racialized person and Willie O’Ree became the first black player in 1958 when he joined the Bruins. Jacques Plante was the first netminder to use a mask for protection frequently.
In 1967, six new expansion teams were added to the NHL, forming the West Division, while the pre-existing six teams that are the “Original Six” were initiated into the East Division. By 1974 the total number of units was 18. The pursuit fueled the NHL’s expansion to battle with the World Hockey Association operational from 1972 to 1979. This association sought to compete with the NHL for markets and players.
The Winnipeg Jets signed Bobby Hull, the most eminent player to scar to the opponent team. He signed a 2.75 million dollar contract. The Summit Series was the first international play the NHL was indulged within 1972. The top Canadian players of the NHL set against the elite players in the Soviet Union, which Canada won with four wins, three losses, and a tie. The fall of the Iron Curtain led the Soviet Bloc players to get recruited in the NHL in 1989.
Midtown Manhattan has been the league’s headquarters ever since the head office moved from Montreal in 1989. After 1992, the NHL faced the halting of four club-related work. As per the International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF), the Stanley Cup is said to be one of the “most important championships available to the sport.” Many of the most elite layers from all over the globe are recruited by the NHL, and presently, it has a diverse community of players from roughly twenty countries. Canadians have occupied most of the spots in the league, but American and European players have increased in the neoteric seasons.
The league acknowledged earnest plans to double the league proceeds from four hundred million dollars within a decade and bring the NHL to twenty-eight suffrages during that period. The San Jose Sharks, who ushered a debut in the 1991-92 season, the Ottawa Senators, and Tampa Bay Lightning, who followed a year later, were announced as the three new teams to get ushered into the NHL.
On September 23, 1992, Manon Rheaume played for the Lightning as a goalkeeper and became the first NHL woman. The Mighty Ducks of Anaheim and Florida Panthers ushered their debut as the twenty-fifth and twenty-sixth teams sequentially. They were granted as part of the NHL’s efforts to reacquire a network television presence by widening their scope throughout the south of America. The Minnesota North Stars moved to Dallas, Texas, to become the Dallas Stars in 1993.
The players seized the plays due to lack of a Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) in 1994-95, which lasted 104, leading to the season’s being shortened from eighty-four to forty-eight planned games. The union proposed a luxury tax system to limit escalating salaries instead of a salary cap that would free agency and arbitration. The owners did not achieve a total salary cap, but the deal still favored the owners.
The deal could not save the two teams in Canada’s smallest NHL markets. The difference in revenue between the large and small market teams increased by the fall of the Canadian Dollar forcing the Quebec Nordiques to move to Denver in 1995 and become the Colorado Avalanche. The Winnipeg Jets moved to Phoenix in Arizona and became the Coyotes the following year. In 1997, the Hartford Whalers then moved to Greensboro, NC, and became the Carolina Hurricanes.
The Nashville Predators joined the league in 1998, followed by the Atlanta Thrashers the following year. NHL players played in the Winter Olympics from 1998 at the Nagano Games as a ploy to market them. Two more teams joined the league in 2000, bringing the total number of teams to 30. They returned to Minnesota with the Wild and recruited the Blue Jackets in Columbus, Ohio. I would call that nothing short of an epic journey.
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