Originating from the centuries-old stick and ball games of Europe, the modern game of ice hockey, more simply known as ‘hockey’, was developed in Canada. Usually taking place on an ice rink, hockey is played by two opposing teams moving a rubber disc (puck) down the ice toward each other’s net (goal). The speed of play and the aggressive nature of the game make hockey an exciting sport in which to participate as well as to watch. Hockey is most popular in Canada, the northern United States, and Northern and Eastern European countries such as Finland, Sweden, the Czech Republic and Russia.
The first national hockey organization, the Amateur Hockey Association (AHA) of Canada, was formed in Montreal in 1885. Professional hockey leagues began around 1900. The National Hockey Association (NHA) was organized in 1910 and was replaced in 1917 by the National Hockey League (NHL) as the most dominant governing body for the sport. Ice hockey was played for the first time in the Olympics in 1920.
There are 31 teams in the NHL, divided between two conferences. The Eastern Conference has 16 teams and the Western Conference, 17. These conferences are further subdivided into two divisions each. In the Eastern Conference there are the Atlantic and Metropolitan divisions, each with 8 teams. In the Western Conference, the Central Division has 7 teams, while the Pacific Division has 8. There are 82 games in the regular season. This is followed by a playoff competition, with the winning team awarded the Stanley Cup championship trophy, the oldest existing trophy awarded to a professional sports team.