Hockey is a great sport. Even if you aren’t a fan, you can appreciate its greatness because of these unbelievable statistics that will surprise even the biggest hockey fan.

The Fans

  • The world’s first hockey team was founded in the early 1800s by British soldiers garrisoned in Kingston, Ontario during the War of 1812.
  • Professional hockey started in the late 1800s, and the first NHL games were played in Montreal and Toronto in 1917.

According to the NHL the most popular team in Canada is the Montréal Canadiens, who have 19% of Canadian hockey fans supporting them. The second most favoured team is the Toronto Maple Leafs with 13%, followed by the Vancouver Canucks at 6%.

The Teams

  • There are 30 National Hockey League teams divided into two conferences: Eastern Conference and Western Conference. Each conference is split up into three divisions: Atlantic Division, Metropolitan Division, and Central Division.
  • The NHL regular season lasts from October to April, during which teams play 82 games.
  • The four lowest-seeded teams face off in the Stanley Cup playoffs beginning in April, with the winner being crowned Stanley Cup Champions after 16 wins over three to seven games each round.

Stanley Cups

  • The Stanley Cup is awarded after a best-of-seven playoff series to the NHL team that wins the Eastern Conference, Western Conference or Pacific Division, and then the league championship.
  • The first modern-era Stanley Cup was won by Montreal Hockey Club in 1893, but Lord Stanley never saw his namesake trophy because it wasn’t commissioned until 1894.
  • The Stanley Cup is the only trophy awarded ‘to the whole number of champions’, as opposed to an individual or team. It’s also the only one with an engraved list of every winning team and player on it.
  • Conn Smythe bought the original Stanley Cup in 1930 for $6,000, and then donated it back to the NHL in 1947 where it was renamed the ‘presentation cup’.
  • Until 1988, members of the winning team each got a day with the Stanley Cup during their championship season. They could do whatever they wanted with it such as eat cereal out of it or let their children sit in it. However, there were two years in which the trophy was not awarded due to a players’ strike, and for several years it was given to NHL’s president’s instead of the winning team.
  • Today members of the winning team get their name engraved on the cup each year, making it nearly impossible for anyone else to claim ownership if they were to steal it.
  • This year’s cup is the 100th edition.

Who Won the Most Stanley Cups

Despite being one of the NHL’s so called “Original 6” teams, the Toronto Maple Leafs have only won 13 Stanley Cups compared to 23 for their rival Montréal Canadiens. However, when you consider that Montréal has been in existence since 1909 while the Maple Leafs were founded in 1917 it is really no surprise that they are behind.

The Players

  • Hockey great Wayne Gretzky played his first pro game at age 17 in the WHA — he scored a goal and had two assists. He went on to play 20 seasons in the NHL with four different teams, breaking almost every scoring record there was along the way.
  • Gretzky holds 60 NHL records including most goals scored, most assists, and most points in a season — he currently sits at 2,857 points.
  • Fellow hockey legend Mark Messier played 1,756 games over 25 NHL seasons with the Edmonton Oilers, New York Rangers and Vancouver Canucks; he also has the second-most points of any NHL player with 1,887 — only Gretzky has more records.
  • Messier also holds the record for most playoff games played (233) and is the only player to captain two separate teams to Stanley Cup championships.
  • Perhaps one of the lesser known facts about hockey legend Maurice ‘Rocket’ Richard is that at the time of his death, his blood alcohol level was 0.157 (the legal limit in Canada is 0.08).

The Goals

  • On October 15, 1999, Brett Hull of the St. Louis Blues scored an overtime goal against the Buffalo Sabres to win their game 5-4 despite being well offsides. Although the call was controversial at the time, the current rules state that ‘a puck that rebounds off a goal post is automatically ruled onside’.
  • In 1988, Wayne Gretzky scored 50 goals in 39 games; it’s considered to be one of the most amazing records in hockey history because he also had 169 assists during that time.