Friday, June 27, 2014

NHL League Size And Regular Season Length

With this week's release of the regular season schedule for the NHL's 97th season of play, it's a good time to consider this season's offering in the historical context of the number of participating teams and regular season games played since the league's inception 98 years ago.

Years 
Games  Teams
Years
Games  Teams
1917-1918   
22
4
          1978-1979   
80
17
1918-1919
18
3
      1979-1991
80
21
1919-1924
24
4
1991-1992
80
22
1924-1925
30
6
1992-1993
84
24
1925-1926
36
7
1993-1994
84
26
1926-1931
44
10
1994-1995
48
26
1931-1932
48
8
1995-1998
82
26
1932-1935
48
9
1998-2000
82
28
1935-1938
48
8
2000-2004
82
30
1938-1942
48
7
2004-2005
0
30
1942-1946
50
6
2005-2012
82
30
1946-1949
60
6
2012-2013
48
30
1949-1967
70
6
2013-2015
82
30
1967-1968
74
12



1968-1970
76
12



1970-1972
78
14



1972-1974
78
16



1974-1978
80
18




Rising from 3 to 30 teams and 18 to 84 games since 1918, the NHL regular season now sits at 30 teams playing 82 times a piece for a total of 1,230 games.  Aside from three work stoppages - abbreviating, canceling and abbreviating the proceedings respectively (1994-1995, 2004-2005, 2012-2013) - and a fire finishing a team (Montreal Wanderers) part-way through the year (1917-1918), most NHL regular season schedules have been played as planned with few, if any, interruptions.

Amidst endless stories of financially troubled clubs, the league has done well to quell rumors of NHL relocation and NHL expansion despite several hockey hungry markets, most notably Quebec City and Seattle.  

On the heels of last year's NHL realignment, expect regular season length to remain at 82 games for the foreseeable future in order to preserve their commitment to extended divisional play, every team visiting every rink each year, and the pursuit of the all-mighty dollar which directly influences player salaries.  In short, fans' preference for fewer regular season games appears unlikely to be realized anytime soon. 

* See also NHL Stanley Cup Playoff Length By Days And Games.
* See also Fewest And Most Games Needed to Win Stanley Cup.

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