List of NHL seasons

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 as the St. Louis Eagles, 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

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

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
Reg. season
(begin reg. season)
(incl. NHA playoffs)
Top record Champion
19101910712January 5March 15Montreal Wanderers (11–1–0)Montreal Wanderers
1910–111911516December 31March 10Ottawa Hockey Club (13–3–0)Ottawa Hockey Club
1911–121912418December 30March 5Quebec Bulldogs (10–8–0)Quebec Bulldogs
1912–131913620December 25March 5Quebec Bulldogs (16–4–0)Quebec Bulldogs
1913–141914620December 27March 11Toronto Blueshirts, Montreal Canadiens (13–7–0)[2]Toronto Blueshirts
1914–151915620December 26March 13Ottawa Senators (14–6–0)Vancouver Millionaires [1]
1915–161916524December 18March 18Montreal Canadiens (16–7–1)Montreal Canadiens
1916–1719176/4 [3]20December 27March 10Montreal Canadiens (7–3–0) (1st half)
Ottawa Senators (8–2–0) (2nd half)
Montreal Canadiens [1][5]

^ 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

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
Reg. season
(reg. season)
(incl. NHL playoffs)
Top record Champion
11917–181918 [1]19184/3[5]22December 19March 13Montreal Canadiens (10–4–0) (1st half)
Toronto Hockey Club (5–3–0) (2nd half)
Toronto Hockey Club
21918–1919191919318December 19March 6Montreal Canadiens (7–3–0) (1st half)
Ottawa Senators (7–1–0) (2nd half)
Montreal Canadiens [1]
31919–20192019204[6]24December 23March 10 [7]Ottawa Senators (9–3–0) (1st half)
Ottawa Senators (10–2–0) (2nd half)
Ottawa Senators
41920–2119211921424December 22March 15Ottawa Senators (8–2–0) (1st half)
Toronto St. Pats (10–4–0) (2nd half)
Ottawa Senators
51921–2219221922424December 17March 13Ottawa Senators (14–8–2)Toronto St. Pats
61922–2319231923424December 16March 9Ottawa Senators (14–9–1)Ottawa Senators
71923–2419241924424December 15March 11Ottawa Senators (16–8–0)Montreal Canadiens
81924–25192519256[8]30November 29March 13Hamilton Tigers (19–10–1)Montreal Canadiens [1]
91925–26192619267[9]36November 28March 27Ottawa Senators (24–8–4)Montreal Maroons
101926–271927192710[10]44November 18April 13Ottawa Senators (30–10–4)Ottawa Senators
111927–28192819281044November 15April 14Montreal Canadiens (26–11–7)New York Rangers
121928–29192919291044November 15March 29Montreal Canadiens (22–7–15)Boston Bruins
131929–30193019301044November 14April 3Boston Bruins (38–5–1)Montreal Canadiens
141930–31193119311044November 11April 14Boston Bruins (28–10–6)Montreal Canadiens
151931–32193219328[11]48November 12April 9Montreal Canadiens (25–16–7)Toronto Maple Leafs
161932–33193319339[12]48November 10April 13Boston Bruins (25–15–8)New York Rangers
171933–3419341934948November 9April 10Toronto Maple Leafs (26–13–9)Chicago Black Hawks
181934–3519351935948November 8April 9Toronto Maple Leafs (30–14–4)Montreal Maroons
191935–36193619368[13]48November 7April 11Detroit Red Wings (24–16–8)Detroit Red Wings
201936–3719371937848November 5April 15Detroit Red Wings (25–14–9)Detroit Red Wings
211937–3819381938848November 4April 12Boston Bruins (30–11–7)Chicago Black Hawks
221938–39193919397[14]48November 3April 16Boston Bruins (36–10–2)Boston Bruins
231939–4019401940748November 2April 13Boston Bruins (31–12–5)New York Rangers
241940–4119411941748November 3April 12Boston Bruins (27–8–13)Boston Bruins
251941–4219421942748November 1April 18New York Rangers (29–17–2)Toronto Maple Leafs
^ 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

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
(reg. season)
(incl. playoffs)
Top record Champion
261942–431943194350October 31April 8Detroit Red Wings (25–14–11)Detroit Red Wings
271943–441944194450October 30April 13Montreal Canadiens (38–5–7)Montreal Canadiens
281944–451945194550October 28April 22Montreal Canadiens (38–8–4)Toronto Maple Leafs
291945–461946194650October 24April 9Montreal Canadiens (28–17–5)Montreal Canadiens
301946–471947194760October 16April 19Montreal Canadiens (34–16–10)Toronto Maple Leafs
311947–481948194860October 15April 14Toronto Maple Leafs (32–15–13)Toronto Maple Leafs
321948–491949194960October 13April 16Detroit Red Wings (34–19–7)Toronto Maple Leafs
331949–501950195070October 12April 23Detroit Red Wings (37–19–14)Detroit Red Wings
341950–511951195170October 11April 21Detroit Red Wings (44–13–13)Toronto Maple Leafs
351951–521952195270October 11April 15Detroit Red Wings (44–14–12)Detroit Red Wings
361952–531953195370October 9April 16Detroit Red Wings (36–16–18)Montreal Canadiens
371953–541954195470October 8April 16Detroit Red Wings (37–19–14)Detroit Red Wings
381954–551955195570October 7April 14Detroit Red Wings (42–11–11)Detroit Red Wings
391955–561956195670October 6April 10Montreal Canadiens (45–15–10)Montreal Canadiens
401956–571957195770October 11April 16Detroit Red Wings (38–20–12)Montreal Canadiens
411957–581958195870October 8April 20Montreal Canadiens (43–17–10)Montreal Canadiens
421958–591959195970October 8April 18Montreal Canadiens (39–18–13)Montreal Canadiens
431959–601960196070October 7April 14Montreal Canadiens (40–18–12)Montreal Canadiens
441960–611961196170October 5April 16Montreal Canadiens (41–19–10)Chicago Black Hawks
451961–621962196270October 11April 22Montreal Canadiens (42–14–14)Toronto Maple Leafs
461962–631963196370October 12April 18Toronto Maple Leafs (35–23–12)Toronto Maple Leafs
471963–641964196470October 8April 25Montreal Canadiens (36–21–13)Toronto Maple Leafs
481964–651965196570October 12May 1Detroit Red Wings (40–23–7)Montreal Canadiens
491965–661966196670October 23May 5Montreal Canadiens (41–21–8)Montreal Canadiens
501966–671967196770October 19May 2Chicago Black Hawks (41–17–12)Toronto Maple Leafs

Expansion years

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
Reg. season
(reg. season)
(incl. playoffs)
Top record Champion
511967–681968196812[15]74October 11May 11Montreal Canadiens (42–22–10)Montreal Canadiens
521968–69196919691276October 11May 4Montreal Canadiens (46–19–11)Montreal Canadiens
531969–70197019701276October 11May 10Chicago Black Hawks (45–22–9)Boston Bruins
541970–711971197114[16]78October 9May 18Boston Bruins (57–14–7)Montreal Canadiens
551971–72197219721478October 8May 11Boston Bruins (54–13–11)Boston Bruins
561972–731973197316[17]78October 7May 10Montreal Canadiens (52–10–16)Montreal Canadiens
571973–74197419741678October 10May 19Boston Bruins (52–17–9)Philadelphia Flyers
581974–751975197518[18]80October 9May 27Philadelphia Flyers (51–18–11)Philadelphia Flyers
591975–76197619761880October 7May 16Montreal Canadiens (58–11–11)Montreal Canadiens
601976–771977197718[19]80October 5May 14Montreal Canadiens (60–8–12)Montreal Canadiens
611977–78197819781880October 12May 25Montreal Canadiens (59–10–11)Montreal Canadiens
621978–791979197917[20]80October 11May 21New York Islanders (51–15–14)Montreal Canadiens
631979–801980198021[21]80October 9May 24Philadelphia Flyers (48–12–20)New York Islanders
641980–81198119812180October 9May 21New York Islanders (48–18–14)New York Islanders
651981–82198219822180October 6May 16New York Islanders (54–16–10)New York Islanders
661982–831983198321[22]80October 5May 17Boston Bruins (50–20–10)New York Islanders
671983–84198419842180October 4May 19Edmonton Oilers (57–18–5)Edmonton Oilers
681984–85198519852180October 11May 30Philadelphia Flyers (53–20–7)Edmonton Oilers
691985–86198619862180October 10May 24Edmonton Oilers (56–17–7)Montreal Canadiens
701986–87198719872180October 9May 31Edmonton Oilers (50–24–6)Edmonton Oilers
711987–88198819882180October 8May 26Calgary Flames (48–23–9)Edmonton Oilers
721988–89198919892180October 6May 25Calgary Flames (54–17–9)Calgary Flames
731989–90199019902180October 5May 24Boston Bruins (46–25–9)Edmonton Oilers
741990–91199119912180October 4May 25Chicago Blackhawks (49–23–8)Pittsburgh Penguins
751991–921992199222[23]80October 3June 1New York Rangers (50–25–5)Pittsburgh Penguins
^ 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 California Gold Seals relocated to Ohio, renamed Cleveland Barons. Kansas City Scouts relocated to Colorado, renamed Colorado Rockies.
^ 20.The Cleveland Barons merge with the Minnesota North Stars.
^ 21.The Edmonton Oilers, Hartford Whalers, Quebec Nordiques and Winnipeg Jets (1972–96) join the NHL.
^ 22.The Colorado Rockies relocated to New Jersey, renamed New Jersey Devils.
^ 23.The San Jose Sharks started play.

Current era

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
Reg. season
(reg. season)
(incl. playoffs)
Top record Champion
761992–931993199324[24]84October 6June 9Pittsburgh Penguins (56–21–7)Montreal Canadiens
771993–941994199426[25]84October 5June 14New York Rangers (52–24–8)New York Rangers
781994–95199519952648[26]January 20June 24Detroit Red Wings (33–11–4)New Jersey Devils
791995–96199619962682October 6June 10Detroit Red Wings (62–13–7)Colorado Avalanche
801996–971997199726[27]82October 4June 7Colorado Avalanche (49–24–9)Detroit Red Wings
811997–98199819982682October 1June 16Dallas Stars (49–22–11)Detroit Red Wings
821998–991999199927[28]82October 9June 19Dallas Stars (51–19–12)Dallas Stars
831999–002000200028[29]82October 1June 10St. Louis Blues (51–19–11–1)New Jersey Devils
842000–012001200130[30]82October 4June 9Colorado Avalanche (52–16–10–4)Colorado Avalanche
852001–02200220023082October 3June 13Detroit Red Wings (51–17–10–4)Detroit Red Wings
862002–03200320033082October 9June 9Ottawa Senators (52–21–8–1)New Jersey Devils
872003–04200420043082October 8June 7Detroit Red Wings (48–21–11–2)Tampa Bay Lightning
882004–05Season not played due to lockout
892005–06200620063082October 5June 19Detroit Red Wings (58–16–8)Carolina Hurricanes
902006–07200720073082October 4June 6Buffalo Sabres (53–22–7)Anaheim Ducks
912007–08200820083082September 29June 4Detroit Red Wings (54–21–7)Detroit Red Wings
922008–09200920093082October 4June 12San Jose Sharks (53–18–11)Pittsburgh Penguins
932009–10201020103082October 1June 9Washington Capitals (54–15–13)Chicago Blackhawks
942010–11201120113082October 7June 15Vancouver Canucks (54–19–9)Boston Bruins
952011–122012201230[31]82October 6June 11Vancouver Canucks (51–22–9)Los Angeles Kings
962012–13201320133048[32]January 19June 24Chicago Blackhawks (36–7–5)Chicago Blackhawks
972013–14201420143082October 1June 13Boston Bruins (54–19–9)Los Angeles Kings
982014–15201520153082October 8June 15New York Rangers (53–22–7)Chicago Blackhawks
992015–16201620163082October 7June 12Washington Capitals (56–18–8)Pittsburgh Penguins
1002016–17201720173082October 12June 11Washington Capitals (55–19–8)Pittsburgh Penguins
1012017–182018201831[33]82October 4June 7Nashville Predators (53–18–11) Washington Capitals
1022018–19201920193182October 3June 12Tampa Bay Lightning (62–16–4) St. Louis Blues
1032019–20202020203182October 2TBDTBDTBD
^ 24. Ottawa Senators and Tampa Bay Lightning started play.
^ 25. Mighty Ducks of Anaheim and Florida Panthers started play. Minnesota North Stars relocated to Texas, renamed Dallas Stars.
^ 26. Season shortened due to lockout.
^ 27. Winnipeg Jets (1972–96) relocated to Arizona, July 1996, renamed Phoenix Coyotes.
^ 28. Nashville Predators started play.
^ 29. Atlanta Thrashers started play.
^ 30. Columbus Blue Jackets and Minnesota Wild started play.
^ 31. Atlanta Thrashers relocated to Winnipeg, May 2011, renamed Winnipeg Jets.
^ 32. Season shortened due to lockout. Last season to have 5 teams per division.
^ 33. Vegas Golden Knights started play.

All-time top regular season record holders

This table lists the number of times that NHL/NHA teams had the top record in the regular season. (This list does not count Stanley Cup/League Champion wins.) The Presidents' Trophy is the current award for the team with the best regular season record, which began being awarded starting with the 1985–86 NHL season. From 1938 to 1967 the Prince of Wales Trophy was the award for the team with the best record in the regular season. Following the expansion of 1967–68 no award was giving until the inception of the Presidents' Trophy.

TotalTeamMost recent
23Montreal Canadiens ^1977–78
18Detroit Red Wings2007–08
13Boston Bruins2013–14
9Ottawa Senators (original) ^1927–28
6Toronto Maple Leafs1962–63
4Chicago Blackhawks2012–13
4New York Rangers2014–15
3Edmonton Oilers1986–87
3New York Islanders1981–82
3Philadelphia Flyers1984–85
3Washington Capitals2016–17
2Colorado Avalanche2000–01
2Calgary Flames1988–89
2Dallas Stars1998–99
2Vancouver Canucks2011-12
2Quebec Bulldogs (NHA)1912–13
1Buffalo Sabres2006–07
1Hamilton Tigers1924–25
1Montreal Wanderers (NHA)1910
1Nashville Predators2017-18
1Ottawa Senators2002–03
1Pittsburgh Penguins1992–93
1San Jose Sharks2008–09
1St. Louis Blues1999–00
1Tampa Bay Lightning2018-19
1Toronto Blueshirts (NHA)1913–14
Defunct teams denoted in italics.
^ The Montreal Canadiens and Ottawa Senators (original) each have 2 top regular season records in the NHA in addition to their NHL seasons.

See also


  • "National Hockey League". Retrieved August 26, 2010.
  • Ralph, Dinger, ed. (2010). The National Hockey League Official Guide & Record Book/2011. Dan Diamond & Associates. ISBN 978-1-894801-19-5.
  1. Dinger 2010, p. 95.

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