It’s what hockey fans wait for. It’s the best of the best. It’s hockey at its finest. It’s when it takes the full 7 games to determine the series champs. It’s when all hockey fans watch all the hockey games, not just their favorite teams. But most of all, it’s the trail leading up to winning the oldest trophy competed for in North America, Lord Stanley’s Cup.
This year’s playoffs have been even more exceptional. When the 2014 NHL Playoffs began there were 5 of the “Original Six” teams in the Divisional Semifinals and currently 3 of those 5 made it to the final 4 playing now for the Cup Series.
After the demise of the National Hockey Association (NHA) the National Hockey league (NHL) was founded in 1917. During the early years, the Stanley Cup competitors were Canadian leagues, which extended into the United States with the Boston Bruins in 1924 and the Chicago Blackhawks in 1926 and, at that time consisted of 10 teams. The league then lost four teams because of the Great Depression and World War II. The six remaining became known as the “Original Six” and were the only teams that made up the National Hockey League (NHL) from 1942 until 1967 when the league acquired six more teams, doubling in size. For these 25 seasons the NHL consisted of:
Boston Bruins (est. 1924)
Chicago Blackhawks (est. 1926)
Detroit Red Wings (est. 1921 as Detroit Cougars)
Montreal Canadiens (est. 1909)
New York Rangers (est. 1925)
Toronto Maple Leafs (est. 1917 as Toronto Arenas)
During the early hockey years, there were no helmets or fancy pads. It was just a couple of knee-pads and gloves, skates, stick and a puck. The logos and jerseys haven’t changed much. However there have been a few changes. The game hasn’t always been three 20-minute periods. In 1910 it was changed from two 30-minute periods. It wasn’t until 1917 that the goaltender was permitted to make a save dropping to the ice. Prior to this he had to remain standing. Minor penalties were dropped from three minutes to two in 1921. In 1931 there was a rule instituted stating there was only one goaltender for each team allowed on the ice at one time. Although there is no record of anyone attempting to play two, interestingly the rule was created. Video replays were allowed beginning in 1991 and helmets were an option for forwards and defensemen in 1992 and later became mandatory for all. Goal lines, blue lines, two-line passes, face-off circles, stick lengths, stick curves and the crease have all been amended at various times, but to hockey fans of all ages playoff hockey will always be the greatest.
So when someone asks, “Hockey is still going on?” the answer is simply, “It’s the playoffs!”