Hockey is more than a cool sport for serious fans. The National Hockey League is one of the four major professional sports associations in North America, boasting 30 professional ice hockey franchises in the US and Canada. The NHL governs the game, sets and enforces rules, regulates team ownership, and collects licensing fees for merchandise. It also negotiates fees for national broadcasting rights. (Each team controls the rights to regional broadcasts.) In addition, five minor and semi-pro hockey leagues also fly under the NHL banner. The league was organized in Canada in 1917.
Hockey remains the dominant spectator sport in Canada despite the fact that only six professional teams hail from the provinces, and there the NHL enjoys broadcasting partnerships with the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) and The Sports Network (TSN; owned by CTV). South of the border, the NHL has been getting better ratings and more attention from national broadcasters.
Like other sports organizations, the NHL generates the bulk of its revenue through broadcasting fees, marketing sponsorships, and merchandise sales. The NHL's pact with broadcast network NBC, which extends through the 2020-21 season, is unique in sports as it offers the league a share of revenue from each game's advertising sales as opposed to a large sum paid up front for rights to the games.
To help expand its fan base in the US, the NHL operates its own cable sports channel, the NHL Network, which offers 24-hours of hockey news and features along with live coverage of some games. The league also broadcasts live games online through its NHL GameCenter subscription service. In addition, the NHL has broadcasting partnerships with satellite radio providers SIRIUS XM Radio and Canadian Satellite Radio (XM Canada).
The league's efforts to attract new fans, and re-energize old ones, have paid off with increased ticket sales at games and a growing number of fans accessing their hockey news from the NHL's website and mobile news services. Ratings for games on television in the US have also been on the rise thanks in part to special events such as an annual outdoor hockey match held on New Year's Day.
Anaheim Ducks (2006)
Atlanta Thrashers (1999)
Boston Bruins (1924)
Buffalo Sabres (1970, New York)
Calgary Flames (1980, Alberta, Canada)
Carolina Hurricanes (1997, Raleigh)
Chicago Blackhawks (1926)
Colorado Avalanche (1995, Denver)
Columbus Blue Jackets (2000, Ohio)
Dallas Stars (1993)
Detroit Red Wings (1926)
Edmonton Oilers (1973; Alberta, Canada; joined the NHL from the World Hockey League in 1979)
Florida Panthers (1993, Miami)
Los Angeles Kings (1967)
Minnesota Wild (2000, St. Paul)
Montreal Canadiens (1909)
Nashville Predators (1998)
New Jersey Devils (1982, East Rutherford)
New York Islanders (1972, Unionville)
New York Rangers (1926, New York City)
Ottawa Senators (1992; Ontario, Canada)
Philadelphia Flyers (1967)
Phoenix Coyotes (1996)
Pittsburgh Penguins (1967)
St. Louis Blues (1967)
San Jose Sharks (1991, California)
Tampa Bay Lightning (1992)
Toronto Maple Leafs (1927)
Vancouver Canucks (1947, joined the NHL from the Western Hockey League in 1970)
Washington Capitals (1974; Washington, DC)
Winnipeg Jets (2012)