After being established in Montreal in 1917 with four Canadian teams, the National Hockey League competed with two rival major leagues, the Pacific Coast Hockey Association and the Western Canada Hockey League, for the coveted Stanley Cup. In 1918, Toronto won the first league title, then defeated the Pacific Coast Hockey Association’s Vancouver Millionaires, earning the right to hoist the Stanley Cup. The presence of the NHL spread across Canada, much to the credit of Foster Hewitt’s lively radio broadcasts, which were heard across the nation by 1933. The NHL would emerge as the top professional ice hockey league and the sole competitor for the Stanley Cup- which the league gained full control of in 1947 when the NHL made a deal with the Stanley Cup trustees.
In 1924 the Boston Bruins became the first American hockey club to join the league, and by 1926 six of the ten teams in the NHL were from the United States. By the 1970’s the number of teams in the NHL reached eighteen, and additional expansions in 1991 and 1992 increased the league to 26 teams, including a new Canadian franchise, the Ottawa Senators. Franchises were also granted to the Tampa Bay Lightning, Anaheim Mighty Ducks, Florida Panthers and San Jose Sharks. By the turn of the twenty-first century, with the addition of the Nashville Predators (1998), Atlanta Thrashers (1999), Minnesota Wild and Columbus Blue Jackets (2000), the NHL had expanded to 30 teams; many now located in the U.S. The NHL remains the premier professional ice hockey league, and the Stanley Cup is a globally recognizable symbol of the world professional championship.
Today the NHL attracts many of the world’s most skilled athletes, and currently has players from nearly two dozen different countries. Canadians have historically constituted the majority of professional hockey players in the NHL, but the league has seen the number of U.S. and European players rise over recent years. This shows the ever growing popularity of the great sport of ice hockey, as well as the increased availability of highly skilled European players. But we all know that Canadians are the best hockey players! Read Mark Rivkin History of the NHL Part One HERE.