The sport of ice hockey, with the NHL at the pinnacle nowadays, was being played on frozen ponds all over the Northeastern United States and Canada long before it was ever classified as a sport. Boys and girls alike who were attracted to the ice were always ready to invite a little competition into their day, and so, with only crude hockey sticks, usually hand made at home, and something round and very hard to serve as the hockey puck.
They took to the ice to see who was best at keeping up with the little puck, which sometimes flew by at dazzling speeds before the player even had a chance to swing at it. That is, in essence, how the NHL was born.
Hockey Gets A Crude Start
At first hockey players, way before the NHL was born, used 4 wooden poles stuck in the ground at each end of the playing field as goals, play was often restricted by the size of the pond they were using, and a rudimentary scoring system slowly developed. The net came later. At some point one village would challenge another village to a match and then the schools and colleges began to pick the game up. Uniforms and standardized sticks and pucks came into use and the once casual pastime out on the ice became the fast moving and often violent sport that we know today as ice hockey.
Ice hockey, or simply hockey, as it is known in North America and the Nordic countries of Europe, owes its early development to Canada where the sport was embraced as early as 1875, when the first indoor Hockey game was played indoors in Montreal. All of this was happening before and right around the turn of the 20th century, a time which also saw the development of professional football and basketball leagues. These leagues mostly started as semi-professional, loosely organized teams that played irregular schedules with an ever changing set of rules.
Around 1917, there appeared the first semblance of professional hockey teams in the upper Northeast and Canada. There were no conferences or divisions, just a bunch of guys trying to make a living playing a sport that they loved full time. Little by little it all came together. Teams got better organized and venues were improved for both the players and the spectators, who became the fans.
NHL Hockey Is Rooted In The NBA
Professional basketball, or the NBA, actually gained popularity and much greater exposure to the sporting public when the owners the ice skating rinks discovered that they could hold basketball games in their buildings during the hockey off season and the fans would come out to see the action.
About this same time, the sport of ice hockey was becoming standardized so that all matches in what is now the NHL used the same number of players and more or less the same set of rules. Teams were made up of six players to a team with one guy acting at the goalie, who stayed in front his goal protecting it from attempts from the other team to knock the puck into the goal and thereby score points for their side.
Depending on how good the respective goalies are for each team, scoring can be quite difficult and low scoring games are the norm. But the goalie has his work cut out for him as the action out on the ice is fast paced and unpredictable. One good hit can send the puck from one end of the rink to the other and disrupt the other team’s plans in a split second. Hockey is one of the fastest, and sometimes the most violent, sports being played today. Just keeping up with the antics of the tiny puck as it is knocked around the ice can be difficult even for the most hardened hockey fans.
There are now 32 teams in the NHL. The Vegas Golden Knights entered in 2018, and the Seattle Kraken are set to enter as of the 2021 season. They’re divided into the Western and Eastern Conferences, and then into separate divisions. The Western has the Pacific and Central Divisions, and the Eastern has the Atlantic and the Metropolitan Divisions. All teams play a regular season consisting of a total of 82 games each as they try for a place in the postseason. The last two teams standing, one from each conference, face each other in the Stanley Cup tournament, a best-of-seven competition, to determine the season champions.