History of NHL Conferences and Divisions

From the Original Six to the 30-Team league.

PITTSBURGH - OCTOBER 07: New logos are etched into the ice prior to the game between the Pittsburgh Penguins and the Philadelphia Flyers at the Consol Energy Center on October 7, 2010 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

As of 2013-14, the NHL has realigned its thirty teams into four new divisions.

It's a move that has far-reaching consequences for the schedule, the playoff race, and how teams are seeded for the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Although there has been much shifting of teams over the years, the NHL has arranged itself as two conferences containing multiple divisions since 1974.

Here's a look at the divisional and conference set-ups employed since the NHL was founded in 1917:

1917-1926:

  • No divisions. Number of league teams ranges from three in 1918-19 to seven in 1925-26.
  • Montreal Canadiens
    Toronto Arenas/Toronto St. Pats
    Ottawa Senators
    Montreal Maroons (starting in 1924)
    Boston Bruins (starting in 1924)
    New York Americans (starting in 1925)
    Hamilton Tigers (1920-25)
    Pittsburgh Pirates (starting in 1925)
    Montreal Wanderers (played 6 games in 1917-18 before withdrawing after their rink burned down)

1926-1938:

  • Canadian Division, with four or five teams.
  • Montreal Canadiens
    Toronto St. Pats/Toronto Maple Leafs
    Montreal Maroons
    New York Americans
    Ottawa Senators (Missed 1931-32 season. Returned from 1932-1934 before withdrawing for good.)
    St. Louis Eagles (1934-35)
  • American Division, with four or five teams.
  • New York Rangers (starting in 1926)
    Boston Bruins
    Chicago Blackhawks (starting in 1926)
    Pittsburgh Pirates (until 1930)
    Detroit Cougars/Detroit Falcons/Detroit Red Wings (starting in 1926)
    Philadelphia Quakers (1930-31)

    1938-1942:

    • Seven teams, no divisions.
    • Boston Bruins
      New York Rangers
      Toronto Maple Leafs
      New York Americans/Brooklyn Americans
      Detroit Red Wings
      Montreal Canadiens
      Chicago Blackhawks

    1942-1967:

    • Six teams, no divisions.
    • Boston Bruins
      New York Rangers
      Toronto Maple Leafs
      Detroit Red Wings
      Montreal Canadiens
      Chicago Blackhawks

      1967-1974:

      • East Division and West Division. Each division begins with six teams in 1967-68, expanding to eight teams each by 1973-74.
      • Boston Bruins
        New York Rangers
        Toronto Maple Leafs
        Detroit Red Wings
        Montreal Canadiens
        Chicago Blackhawks
        Philadelphia Flyers
        Los Angeles Kings
        St. Louis Blues
        Minnesota North Stars
        Pittsburgh Penguins
        Oakland Seals/California Seals
        Buffalo Sabres (starting in 1970)
        Vancouver Canucks (starting in 1970)
        New York Islanders (starting in 1972)
        Atlanta Flames (starting in 1972)

      1974-1993:

      • Prince of Wales Conference, with Adams and Patrick Divisions.
      • Clarence Campbell Conference, with Norris and Smythe Divisions.
      • League expands from 18 teams in 1974-75 to 24 teams in 1992-93.
      • Boston Bruins
        New York Rangers
        Toronto Maple Leafs
        Detroit Red Wings
        Montreal Canadiens
        Chicago Blackhawks
        Philadelphia Flyers
        Los Angeles Kings
        St. Louis Blues
        Minnesota North Stars
        Pittsburgh Penguins
        California Golden Seals (until 1976)
        Buffalo Sabres (starting in 1970)
        Vancouver Canucks (starting in 1970)
        New York Islanders (starting in 1972)
        Atlanta Flames (until 1980)
        Washington Capitals (starting in 1974)
        Kansas City Scouts (1974-1976)
        Colorado Rockies (1976-1982)
        Cleveland Barons (1976-1978)
        New Jersey Devils (starting in 1982)
        Calgary Flames (starting in 1980)
        Quebec Nordiques (starting in 1979)
        Hartford Whalers (starting in 1979)
        Winnipeg Jets (starting in 1979)
        Edmonton Oilers (starting in 1979)
        San Jose Sharks (starting in 1991)
        Tampa Bay Lightning (starting in 1992)
        Ottawa Senators (starting in 1992)

        1993-2012:

        • Eastern Conference, with Atlantic, Northeast, and Southeast Divisions.
        • Western Conference, with Central, Western, and Pacific Divisions.
        • League expands to 30 teams.
        • Boston Bruins
          New York Rangers
          Toronto Maple Leafs
          Detroit Red Wings
          Montreal Canadiens
          Chicago Blackhawks
          Philadelphia Flyers
          Los Angeles Kings
          St. Louis Blues
          Pittsburgh Penguins
          Buffalo Sabres
          Vancouver Canucks
          New York Islanders
          Washington Capitals
          New Jersey Devils
          Calgary Flames
          Quebec Nordiques (until 1995)
          Hartford Whalers (until 1997)
          Winnipeg Jets (until 1996)
          Winnipeg Jets (starting in 2011)
          Edmonton Oilers
          San Jose Sharks
          Tampa Bay Lightning
          Ottawa Senators
          Dallas Stars (starting in 1993)
          Florida Panthers (starting in 1993)
          Anaheim Mighty Ducks/Anaheim Ducks (starting in 1993)
          Colorado Avalanche (starting in 1995)
          Phoenix Coyotes (starting in 1996)
          Carolina Hurricanes (starting in 1997)
          Nashville Predators (starting in 1998)
          Atlanta Thrashers (1999-2011)
          Columbus Blue Jackets (starting in 2000)
          Minnesota Wild (starting in 2000)

          See more NHL and Hockey History:
          1800s-1945: From the first games to the Original Six.
          1945-1980: From the first betting scandal to the Miracle on Ice.
          1981-Present: From the Russian invasion to the California Cup.