The National Hockey League (NHL) is the highest level of professional ice hockey in North America. With teams from Vancouver to Miami, NHL games entertain fans throughout the United States and Canada.
The NHL dates back to a meeting of hockey team owners in Montreal on November 26, 1917. From 1917 to the 21st century, the league underwent several periods of expansion including six new teams in 1967 and four teams in 1979. The NHL reached new markets from 1991 to 2017 with 10 new teams including the Vegas Golden Knights and the Ottawa Senators.
The equipment used by NHL players has changed significantly from the inaugural season in 1917. Goalies were not required to wear masks until a rule change took effect in 1959. Players entering the league in 1979 and after were required to wear helmets. The maximum length of player sticks also increases from 53 inches in 1927 to 63 inches in 1996.
Exceptional players have reflected changes of the guard in NHL history. Defender King Clancy defined excellence at the position during his time with Toronto in the 1920s and 1930s. Maurice “Rocket” Richard was a leading light on a Montreal Canadiens team that won five consecutive Stanley Cups from 1956 to 1960. Wayne Gretzky’s preternatural speed and scoring instincts lifted the Edmonton Oilers and Los Angeles Kings during his career. Goalie Patrick Roy showed the athleticism and grit necessary from modern goaltenders during his time with Montreal and Colorado.
Fans attending an NHL game should anticipate at least three hours spent at the arena. The traffic, parking, and walking required to enter the arena make early arrival a good idea. Prior to the game, fans can watch both teams warm up prior to starting lineup announcements and national anthems.
As the first puck drops, the home team typically plays a variety of music to keep fans engaged and making noise at crucial moments. The intimacy of an NHL arena means that players can easily see the benches, the penalty boxes, and on-ice entertainment between periods. Team traditions like the cannon blast at Columbus Blue Jackets games and the giant inflatable shark at San Jose Sharks game add local flavor to the NHL experience.
NHL fans enjoy a variety of outdoor games and special events throughout the regular season. The league schedules outdoor games early in the season, including the Thanksgiving Showdown and the Winter Classic on New Year’s Day. NHL teams play in the Stadium Series, which typically takes place in a college or professional football stadium. Canadian teams in the league participate in regional events like the NHL Heritage Classic in October and Hockey Day in Canada in February. The NHL All-Star Game each January rotates host cities and features a skills competition.
The NHL’s regular-season schedule begins in early October after several weeks of preseason games. Top players convene each January for the NHL All-Star Game with a short break from the schedule surrounding the game. The final games of the regular season are held in early April. The NHL has occasionally built breaks into the schedule during the Winter Olympics, though the league has also scheduled games during the Olympics to avoid disrupting player performance.
The NHL playoffs feature a 16-team bracket split evenly between the Eastern and Western Conferences. Each conference features two divisions with the top three teams from each division reaching the playoffs along with two conference wild cards. Every playoff series is a best-of-seven series with the higher-ranked team holding the home-ice advantage. The winners of the Eastern and Western Conference Championships meet for the opportunity to hold the Stanley Cup after a best-of-seven series.
Initial sales of NHL tickets to fans typically take place over the summer, once the regular season schedule is released. With a wide variety of price points for every type of fan, SeatGeek is a great resource for hockey fans who want to purchase affordable tickets for their favorite teams.
The average ticket for an NHL game costs $94. This rate varies based on seat location, and prices are often higher for more in-demand games such as rivalries and playoff games, while events such as weeknight matchups can be more affordable.