List of NHL seasons

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This is a list of seasons of the National Hockey League (NHL), a professional ice hockey league, since its inception in 1917. The list also includes the seasons of the National Hockey Association (NHA), the predecessor organization of the NHL, which had several teams that would continue play in the NHL.

Only two franchises, Montreal and Toronto, still exist from the founding of the league. The Quebec Bulldogs, which suspended after the last NHA season, returned to play in the third NHL season, although they were considered founding members of the NHL. The team would be moved by the league to Hamilton, and eventually dissolved by the league in 1925. The original Ottawa Senators would continue in the league until 1935, where, after one season in St. Louis, the franchise was dissolved by the league. The current Ottawa Senators franchise does recognize the history of the original Senators (through retired numbers and a heritage jersey).

The list is sub-divided using the same eras as the series of articles on the History of the National Hockey League.

Championship format[edit]

Like predecessor leagues, the champion of the NHA league since its founding was the team with the best regular season record, with a playoff only used if more than one team had the best win-loss record. This changed in 1917 with the invention of the split-season, whereby the champion became the winner of the annual playoff. The NHL continued the split-season and playoff format upon the winding up of the NHA organization. Except for the 1919–20 season, where there was no playoff because Ottawa won both halves of the season, the champion of the NHL has been the playoff champion.

The NHA champion was awarded the O'Brien Cup. This was continued by the NHL. Until 1927, the NHL champion was awarded the O'Brien Cup, supplemented by the Prince of Wales Trophy, starting in 1925. To win the Stanley Cup, the NHL champion had to play off in a "world's series" with the champion of the Pacific Coast or Western hockey leagues. After 1927, the NHL playoff champion was awarded the Stanley Cup, while the O'Brien Cup and Prince of Wales Trophy were reused as division championship and playoff runner-up awards.

National Hockey Association[edit]

Hockey seasons traditionally started in January and ended in March until the 1910–11 season which was the first to start before the new year. The 1911–12 season saw the elimination of the rover position, reducing number of skaters per side to six. The 1916–17 season saw the introduction of the split schedule, an innovation attributed to Toronto NHA owner Eddie Livingstone. To symbolize the league championship, the NHA champion was awarded the O'Brien Cup, donated by the O'Brien family, owners of silver mines (being the source of the silver in the trophy), owners of several of the NHA franchises, and original owner of the Montreal Canadiens.

Season Final [4a, b, c] No. of
Teams
Reg. season
games
Start
(begin reg. season)
Finish
(incl. NHA playoffs)
Top record Champion
1910 1910 7 12 January 5 March 15 Montreal Wanderers (11–1–0) Montreal Wanderers
1910–11 1911 5 16 December 31 March 10 Ottawa Hockey Club (13–3–0) Ottawa Hockey Club
1911–12 1912 4 18 December 30 March 5 Quebec Bulldogs (10–8–0) Quebec Bulldogs
1912–13 1913 6 20 December 25 March 5 Quebec Bulldogs (16–4–0) Quebec Bulldogs
1913–14 1914 6 20 December 27 March 11 Toronto Blueshirts, Montreal Canadiens (13–7–0)[2] Toronto Blueshirts
1914–15 1915 6 20 December 26 March 13 Ottawa Senators (14–6–0) Vancouver Millionaires [1]
1915–16 1916 5 24 December 18 March 18 Montreal Canadiens (16–7–1) Montreal Canadiens
1916–17 1917 6/4 [3] 20 December 27 March 10 Montreal Canadiens (7–3–0) (1st half)
Ottawa Senators (8–2–0) (2nd half)
Montreal Canadiens [1][5]
Notes

^ 1. All champion teams are also Stanley Cup champions unless marked.
^ 2. The league did not use tiebreakers to determine the top record. The two teams played off to determine the championship.
^ 3. Toronto and Battalion did not participate in the second half.
^ 4a. No Finals prior to 1914; Stanley Cup awarded to league winners and defended on a challenge basis.
^ 4b. Finals in 1915 and 1916 contested between top two teams of regular season.
^ 4c. Finals from 1917 through 1921 contested between qualifier from first half-season and qualifier from second half-season.

Early years[edit]

The NHL started with three of the six NHA clubs (Montreal Canadiens, Montreal Wanderers and Ottawa Senators) and a Toronto franchise run by the Toronto Arena Co., which leased the players of the Toronto Blueshirts. Almost immediately after starting the season, the Wanderers folded, leaving three teams to complete the season. The same three teams returned for 1918–19 before Quebec 'returned' for 1919–20, moving to Hamilton the following year. The same four-team configuration lasted until 1924–25 when the Montreal Maroons and the Boston Bruins joined the league. Expansion into other cities followed, lasting until the 1930s, when several teams folded.

The new NHL did not have a championship trophy at first. The O'Brien Cup was revived in November 1921, and served as the league championship trophy until 1927. The new Prince of Wales Trophy, donated in 1925, was also given to the league champion until 1927. Henceforth, the trophies were designated for divisional championships, and the Stanley Cup became the de facto league championship trophy.

No. Season Playoffs Stanley Cup
Finals [4c]
No. of
teams
Reg. season
games
Start
(reg. season)
Finish
(incl. NHL playoffs)
Top record Champion
1 1917–18 1918 [1] 1918 4/3 [5] 22 December 19 March 13 Montreal Canadiens (10–4–0) (1st half)
Toronto Hockey Club (5–3–0) (2nd half)
Toronto Hockey Club
2 1918–19 1919 1919 3 18 December 19 March 6 Montreal Canadiens (7–3–0) (1st half)
Ottawa Senators (7–1–0) (2nd half)
Montreal Canadiens [1]
3 1919–20 1920 1920 4[6] 24 December 23 March 10 [7] Ottawa Senators (9–3–0) (1st half)
Ottawa Senators (10–2–0) (2nd half)
Ottawa Senators
4 1920–21 1921 1921 4 24 December 22 March 15 Ottawa Senators (8–2–0) (1st half)
Toronto St. Pats (10–4–0) (2nd half)
Ottawa Senators
5 1921–22 1922 1922 4 24 December 17 March 13 Ottawa Senators (14–8–2) Toronto St. Pats
6 1922–23 1923 1923 4 24 December 16 March 9 Ottawa Senators (14–9–1) Ottawa Senators
7 1923–24 1924 1924 4 24 December 15 March 11 Ottawa Senators (16–8–0) Montreal Canadiens
8 1924–25 1925 1925 6[8] 30 November 29 March 13 Hamilton Tigers (19–10–1) Montreal Canadiens [1]
9 1925–26 1926 1926 7[9] 36 November 28 March 27 Ottawa Senators (24–8–4) Montreal Maroons
10 1926–27 1927 1927 10[10] 44 November 18 April 13 Ottawa Senators (30–10–4) Ottawa Senators
11 1927–28 1928 1928 10 44 November 15 April 14 Montreal Canadiens (26–11–7) New York Rangers
12 1928–29 1929 1929 10 44 November 15 March 29 Montreal Canadiens (22–7–15) Boston Bruins
13 1929–30 1930 1930 10 44 November 14 April 3 Boston Bruins (38–5–1) Montreal Canadiens
14 1930–31 1931 1931 10 44 November 11 April 14 Boston Bruins (28–10–6) Montreal Canadiens
15 1931–32 1932 1932 8[11] 48 November 12 April 9 Montreal Canadiens (25–16–7) Toronto Maple Leafs
16 1932–33 1933 1933 9[12] 48 November 10 April 13 Boston Bruins (25–15–8) New York Rangers
17 1933–34 1934 1934 9 48 November 9 April 10 Toronto Maple Leafs (26–13–9) Chicago Black Hawks
18 1934–35 1935 1935 9 48 November 8 April 9 Toronto Maple Leafs (30–14–4) Montreal Maroons
19 1935–36 1936 1936 8[13] 48 November 7 April 11 Detroit Red Wings (24–16–8) Detroit Red Wings
20 1936–37 1937 1937 8 48 November 5 April 15 Detroit Red Wings (25–14–9) Detroit Red Wings
21 1937–38 1938 1938 8 48 November 4 April 12 Boston Bruins (30–11–7) Chicago Black Hawks
22 1938–39 1939 1939 7[14] 48 November 3 April 16 Boston Bruins (36–10–2) Boston Bruins
23 1939–40 1940 1940 7 48 November 2 April 13 Boston Bruins (31–12–5) New York Rangers
24 1940–41 1941 1941 7 48 November 3 April 12 Boston Bruins (27–8–13) Boston Bruins
25 1941–42 1942 1942 7 48 November 1 April 18 New York Rangers (29–17–2) Toronto Maple Leafs
Notes
The Montreal Canadiens host the Toronto Maple Leafs in 1938
^ 1. All champion teams are also Stanley Cup champions unless marked.
^ 4c. Finals from 1917 through 1921 contested between qualifier from first half-season and qualifier from second half-season.
^ 5. Wanderers withdrew after six games (four completed, two forfeited).
^ 6. The Quebec Bulldogs started play.
^ 7. No playoffs.
^ 8. The Montreal Maroons and Boston Bruins started play.
^ 9. The New York Americans and Pittsburgh Pirates started play. Hamilton Tigers dissolved.
^ 10. The Chicago Black Hawks, Detroit Cougars and New York Rangers started play.
^ 11. The Ottawa Senators and Philadelphia Quakers suspended operations for the season.
^ 12. The Ottawa Senators resumed play.
^ 13. The St. Louis Eagles were dissolved.
^ 14. The Montreal Maroons were dissolved.

Original Six era[edit]

Prior to the 1942–43 season, the New York Americans suspended operations. This reduced the number of teams to six, starting the 'Original Six' era. During the Original Six era, the NHL played in a single six-team division. Each season, four of the six teams qualified for the playoffs to determine the Stanley Cup and NHL champion.

No. Season Playoffs Finals Reg. season
games
Start
(reg. season)
Finish
(incl. playoffs)
Top record Champion
26 1942–43 1943 1943 50 October 31 April 8 Detroit Red Wings (25–14–11) Detroit Red Wings
27 1943–44 1944 1944 50 October 30 April 13 Montreal Canadiens (38–5–7) Montreal Canadiens
28 1944–45 1945 1945 50 October 28 April 22 Montreal Canadiens (38–8–4) Toronto Maple Leafs
29 1945–46 1946 1946 50 October 24 April 9 Montreal Canadiens (28–17–5) Montreal Canadiens
30 1946–47 1947 1947 60 October 16 April 19 Montreal Canadiens (34–16–10) Toronto Maple Leafs
31 1947–48 1948 1948 60 October 15 April 14 Toronto Maple Leafs (32–15–13) Toronto Maple Leafs
32 1948–49 1949 1949 60 October 13 April 16 Detroit Red Wings (34–19–7) Toronto Maple Leafs
33 1949–50 1950 1950 70 October 12 April 23 Detroit Red Wings (37–19–14) Detroit Red Wings
34 1950–51 1951 1951 70 October 11 April 21 Detroit Red Wings (44–13–13) Toronto Maple Leafs
35 1951–52 1952 1952 70 October 11 April 15 Detroit Red Wings (44–14–12) Detroit Red Wings
36 1952–53 1953 1953 70 October 9 April 16 Detroit Red Wings (36–16–18) Montreal Canadiens
37 1953–54 1954 1954 70 October 8 April 16 Detroit Red Wings (37–19–14) Detroit Red Wings
38 1954–55 1955 1955 70 October 7 April 14 Detroit Red Wings (42–11–11) Detroit Red Wings
39 1955–56 1956 1956 70 October 6 April 10 Montreal Canadiens (45–15–10) Montreal Canadiens
40 1956–57 1957 1957 70 October 11 April 16 Detroit Red Wings (38–20–12) Montreal Canadiens
41 1957–58 1958 1958 70 October 8 April 20 Montreal Canadiens (43–17–10) Montreal Canadiens
42 1958–59 1959 1959 70 October 8 April 18 Montreal Canadiens (39–18–13) Montreal Canadiens
43 1959–60 1960 1960 70 October 7 April 14 Montreal Canadiens (40–18–12) Montreal Canadiens
44 1960–61 1961 1961 70 October 5 April 16 Montreal Canadiens (41–19–10) Chicago Black Hawks
45 1961–62 1962 1962 70 October 11 April 22 Montreal Canadiens (42–14–14) Toronto Maple Leafs
46 1962–63 1963 1963 70 October 12 April 18 Toronto Maple Leafs (35–23–12) Toronto Maple Leafs
47 1963–64 1964 1964 70 October 8 April 25 Montreal Canadiens (36–21–13) Toronto Maple Leafs
48 1964–65 1965 1965 70 October 12 May 1 Detroit Red Wings (40–23–7) Montreal Canadiens
49 1965–66 1966 1966 70 October 23 May 5 Montreal Canadiens (41–21–8) Montreal Canadiens
50 1966–67 1967 1967 70 October 19 May 2 Chicago Black Hawks (41–17–12) Toronto Maple Leafs

Expansion years[edit]

Since 1967, the league re-organized several times as it grew. In 1967, the league played in two divisions, with the playoff winner of each division playing off for the NHL championship. As the league grew the league changed its championship format to allow cross-over seeding, then changed to a division-based championship, leading to conference-based championship, with conference champions playing off for the Stanley Cup. In 1985, the Presidents' Trophy was inaugurated to reward the team with the top regular season record, irrespective of division or conference.

No. Season Playoffs Finals No. of
teams
Reg. season
games
Start
(reg. season)
Finish
(incl. playoffs)
Top record Champion
51 1967–68 1968 1968 12[15] 74 October 11 May 11 Montreal Canadiens (42–22–10) Montreal Canadiens
52 1968–69 1969 1969 12 76 October 11 May 4 Montreal Canadiens (46–19–11) Montreal Canadiens
53 1969–70 1970 1970 12 76 October 11 May 10 Chicago Black Hawks (45–22–9) Boston Bruins
54 1970–71 1971 1971 14[16] 78 October 9 May 18 Boston Bruins (57–14–7) Montreal Canadiens
55 1971–72 1972 1972 14 78 October 8 May 11 Boston Bruins (54–13–11) Boston Bruins
56 1972–73 1973 1973 16[17] 78 October 7 May 10 Montreal Canadiens (52–10–16) Montreal Canadiens
57 1973–74 1974 1974 16 78 October 10 May 19 Boston Bruins (52–17–9) Philadelphia Flyers
58 1974–75 1975 1975 18[18] 80 October 9 May 27 Philadelphia Flyers (51–18–11) Philadelphia Flyers
59 1975–76 1976 1976 18 80 October 7 May 16 Montreal Canadiens (58–11–11) Montreal Canadiens
60 1976–77 1977 1977 18 80 October 5 May 14 Montreal Canadiens (60–8–12) Montreal Canadiens
61 1977–78 1978 1978 18 80 October 12 May 25 Montreal Canadiens (59–10–11) Montreal Canadiens
62 1978–79 1979 1979 17[19] 80 October 11 May 21 New York Islanders (51–15–14) Montreal Canadiens
63 1979–80 1980 1980 21[20] 80 October 9 May 24 Philadelphia Flyers (48–12–20) New York Islanders
64 1980–81 1981 1981 21 80 October 9 May 21 New York Islanders (48–18–14) New York Islanders
65 1981–82 1982 1982 21 80 October 6 May 16 New York Islanders (54–16–10) New York Islanders
66 1982–83 1983 1983 21 80 October 5 May 17 Boston Bruins (50–20–10) New York Islanders
67 1983–84 1984 1984 21 80 October 4 May 19 Edmonton Oilers (57–18–5) Edmonton Oilers
68 1984–85 1985 1985 21 80 October 11 May 30 Philadelphia Flyers (53–20–7) Edmonton Oilers
69 1985–86 1986 1986 21 80 October 10 May 24 Edmonton Oilers (56–17–7) Montreal Canadiens
70 1986–87 1987 1987 21 80 October 9 May 31 Edmonton Oilers (50–24–6) Edmonton Oilers
71 1987–88 1988 1988 21 80 October 8 May 26 Calgary Flames (48–23–9) Edmonton Oilers
72 1988–89 1989 1989 21 80 October 6 May 25 Calgary Flames (54–17–9) Calgary Flames
73 1989–90 1990 1990 21 80 October 5 May 24 Boston Bruins (46–25–9) Edmonton Oilers
74 1990–91 1991 1991 21 80 October 4 May 25 Chicago Blackhawks (49–23–8) Pittsburgh Penguins
75 1991–92 1992 1992 22[21] 80 October 3 June 1 New York Rangers (50–25–5) Pittsburgh Penguins
Notes
^ 15. The California Seals, Los Angeles Kings, Philadelphia Flyers, Pittsburgh Penguins, Minnesota North Stars and St. Louis Blues started play.
^ 16. The Buffalo Sabres and Vancouver Canucks started play.
^ 17. The Atlanta Flames and New York Islanders started play.
^ 18. The Kansas City Scouts and Washington Capitals started play.
^ 19. The Cleveland Barons merge with the Minnesota North Stars.
^ 20. The Edmonton Oilers, Hartford Whalers, Quebec Nordiques and Winnipeg Jets join the NHL.
^ 21. The San Jose Sharks started play.

Current era[edit]

In 1993, coinciding with the naming of Gary Bettman as commissioner, the league re-organized into the Eastern and Western Conferences, with two divisions each, organized along geographical lines. The playoff format was changed to provide conference champions without divisional playoff champions. A new round of expansion began. By 2000–01, the number of teams increased to 30 and the number of divisions increased to six. This era has seen three seasons where the seasons were changed due to labour disputes between the NHL and the players' union. The 1994–95 and 2012-13 seasons were shortened to 48 intraconference games, and the 2004–05 season's games were cancelled entirely. According to the 2011 NHL Guide and Record Book, the NHL includes the 2004–05 season in its count of seasons. For example, the 2011 NHL Guide lists the Tampa Bay Lightning as entering their 19th 'NHL Season', although a count of the Lightning's seasons of play would determine the 2010–11 season to be their 18th season of play.[1]

No. Season Playoffs Finals No. of
teams
Reg. season
games
Start
(reg. season)
Finish
(incl. playoffs)
Top record Champion
76 1992–93 1993 1993 24[22] 84 October 6 June 9 Pittsburgh Penguins (56–21–7) Montreal Canadiens
77 1993–94 1994 1994 26[23] 84 October 5 June 14 New York Rangers (52–24–8) New York Rangers
78 1994–95 1995 1995 26 48[24] January 20 June 24 Detroit Red Wings (33–11–4) New Jersey Devils
79 1995–96 1996 1996 26 82 October 6 June 10 Detroit Red Wings (62–13–7) Colorado Avalanche
80 1996–97 1997 1997 26 82 October 4 June 7 Colorado Avalanche (49–24–9) Detroit Red Wings
81 1997–98 1998 1998 26 82 October 1 June 16 Dallas Stars (49–22–11) Detroit Red Wings
82 1998–99 1999 1999 27[25] 82 October 9 June 19 Dallas Stars (51–19–12) Dallas Stars
83 1999–00 2000 2000 28[26] 82 October 1 June 10 St. Louis Blues (51–19–11-1) New Jersey Devils
84 2000–01 2001 2001 30[27] 82 October 4 June 9 Colorado Avalanche (52–16–10–4) Colorado Avalanche
85 2001–02 2002 2002 30 82 October 3 June 13 Detroit Red Wings (51–17–10–4) Detroit Red Wings
86 2002–03 2003 2003 30 82 October 9 June 9 Ottawa Senators (52–21–8-1) New Jersey Devils
87 2003–04 2004 2004 30 82 October 8 June 7 Detroit Red Wings (48–21–11-2) Tampa Bay Lightning
88 2004–05 Season not played due to lockout
89 2005–06 2006 2006 30 82 October 5 June 19 Detroit Red Wings (58–16–8) Carolina Hurricanes
90 2006–07 2007 2007 30 82 October 4 June 6 Buffalo Sabres (53–22–7) Anaheim Ducks
91 2007–08 2008 2008 30 82 September 29 June 4 Detroit Red Wings (54–21–7) Detroit Red Wings
92 2008–09 2009 2009 30 82 October 4 June 12 San Jose Sharks (53–18–11) Pittsburgh Penguins
93 2009–10 2010 2010 30 82 October 1 June 9 Washington Capitals (54–15–13) Chicago Blackhawks
94 2010–11 2011 2011 30 82 October 7 June 15 Vancouver Canucks (54–19–9) Boston Bruins
95 2011–12 2012 2012 30 82 October 6 June 11 Vancouver Canucks (51–22–9) Los Angeles Kings
96 2012–13 2013 2013 30 48[28] January 19 June 24 Chicago Blackhawks (36–7–5) Chicago Blackhawks
97 2013–14 2014 2014 30 82 October 1 Boston Bruins (54–19–9)
Notes
^ 22. Ottawa Senators and Tampa Bay Lightning started play.
^ 23. Mighty Ducks of Anaheim and Florida Panthers started play.
^ 24. Season shortened due to lockout.
^ 25. Nashville Predators started play.
^ 26. Atlanta Thrashers started play. Relocated to Winnipeg, May 2011, renamed Winnipeg Jets.
^ 27. Columbus Blue Jackets and Minnesota Wild started play.
^ 28. Season shortened due to lockout. Last season to have 5 teams per division.

All-time top regular season record holders[edit]

This table lists the number of times that NHL/NHA teams had the top regular season record of a season. Defunct teams denoted in italics.

Total Team Most recent
25 Montreal Canadiens 1977–78
18 Detroit Red Wings 2007–08
16 Boston Bruins 2013–14
10 Ottawa Senators (original) 1926–27
6 Toronto Maple Leafs 1962–63
5 Chicago Blackhawks 2012-13
3 Edmonton Oilers 1986–87
3 New York Islanders 1981–82
3 New York Rangers 1993–94
3 Philadelphia Flyers 1984–85
2 Calgary Flames 1988–89
2 Colorado Avalanche 2000–01
2 Dallas Stars 1998–99
2 Quebec Bulldogs 1912–13
2 Vancouver Canucks 2011–12
1 Buffalo Sabres 2006–07
1 Hamilton Tigers 1924–25
1 Montreal Wanderers 1910
1 Ottawa Senators 2002–03
1 Pittsburgh Penguins 1992–93
1 San Jose Sharks 2008–09
1 St. Louis Blues 1999–00
1 Toronto Blueshirts 1913–14
1 Washington Capitals 2009–10

See also[edit]

References[edit]

Notes
  1. ^ Dinger 2010, p. 95.