How many games are in an NHL season?

How Many Games Are In An NHL Season?

In this article, we will delve into the complexities of the NHL season, exploring its length, structure, and the unique factors that make it a demanding journey for both players and fans.

How many games are in an NHL season?

There are 82 games in an NHL season. Meaning, each team plays 41 home games and 41 away games.

However, this hasn’t always been the case.

There have been times when NHL teams played fewer games, as well as, times when NHL teams played more games.

NHL Season Is 82 Games Long

Currently, the NHL season is 82 games long, with teams playing 41 home and 41 away games.

In addition to the 82-game regular season, teams also play 7~8 exhibition games before the season starts.

Lastly, teams also have the potential to play another 28 games in the post-season if they qualify for the Stanley Cup playoffs.

NHL Games Per Season

The 82-game schedule was created after the 1994-1995 NHL lockout and has been maintained ever since – even as the league has expanded.

In 1994, there were only twenty-six teams in the NHL. Comparatively, there are now thirty-two teams in the NHL. But still, the season remains at 82 games.

NHL Was Once 84 Games Long

From 1991 to 1994, the NHL experimented with an 84-game season.

However, this was discontinued after the 1994 NHL lockout, when the league returned to playing 82 games per season.

There Have Been 3 Lockouts In History

1994 Lockout
  • Salary Cap Dispute:
    • The main issue was a salary cap proposed by NHL owners.
  • Resolution:
    • The lockout ended with an agreement that did not include a salary cap but introduced other financial measures.
  • Duration:
    • It lasted from October 1, 1994, to January 11, 1995.
2004 Lockout
  • Salary Cap Dispute:
    • Central issue was the salary cap.
  • Resolution:
  • 310-Day Stoppage:
    • Lockout lasted from Sep 2004 to Jul 2005.
2012 Lockout
  • Financial Dispute:
    • Main issue was revenue sharing and player contracts.
  • Resolution:
    • Ended in Jan 2013 with new Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) and 50-50 revenue split.
  • 119-Day Stoppage:
    • Lasted from Sep 2012 to Jan 2013.

The Original Six Only Played 70 Games

The “Original Six” refers to the group of six NHL teams that comprised the league from 1942 to 1967, which included:

  1. Montreal Canadiens
  2. Toronto Maple Leafs
  3. Boston Bruins
  4. Chicago Blackhawks
  5. Detroit Red Wings
  6. New York Rangers

Players from the Original 6 Era, including Gordie Howe and Bobby Hull, only played 70 games for the majority of their careers.

That’s ~15% fewer games than in today’s NHL.

It’s ultra-impressive then, that Gordie Howe still ranks as the 3rd all-time leader in goals scored.

The Original Six Had The Most Beef

It’s hard to decipher what made the Original 6 such an exciting and iconic era. Because in reality, this era didn’t feature the most goals, fights, or even games played in NHL history.

However, if we take a look at the ratio of “games played” over the “total number of teams in the NHL” we can see what made this era so special.

We have named this ratio of games played over teams in the NHL the “Beef Index” – and in the Original 6 Era, it was sky-high.

In simple terms, the Beef Index represents the number of times an NHL team would play the same opponent in a season.

Teams in the Original 6 Era would play each other up to 14 times per season. Comparatively, NHL teams today play each other ~3 times a season.

The extremely high number of repeated matchups in the Original 6 Era, no doubt, led to heated rivalries and tons of competitive, exciting “beef” amongst teams in the league.





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