The National Hockey League (NHL) is a professional ice hockey league in North America. Founded in 1917, the league initially comprised five teams, all of which were located in Canada. The teams were the Montreal Canadiens, Montreal Wanderers, Ottawa Senators, Toronto Arenas, and the Quebec Bulldogs. The Quebec Bulldogs, though, did not play in the 1917/18 season. Today, the NHL encompasses 32 franchises, of which seven could be found in Canada and 25 in the United States.
NHL's biggest franchises
The New York Rangers were tied with the Los Angeles Kings to be the highest grossing teams in the NHL during the 2021/22 season, recording revenues of 249 million U.S. dollars. The Rangers were also the most valuable franchise in the league, with an estimated value of 2.2 billion U.S. dollars in 2022, with the Toronto Maple Leafs trailing close behind on a valuation of two billion U.S. dollars. Meanwhile, almost half of all NHL franchises had an estimated value of at least one billion U.S. dollars that year, with the average NHL franchise valuation climbing by around 58 percent between 2020 and 2022.
Playing in arguably the highest division of professional ice hockey worldwide can earn players a hefty sum in wages every year. In 2022, the annual salary of the highest paid player in the NHL reached 13 million U.S. dollars. Tyler Seguin, who played for the Dallas Stars as of May 2023 and formerly played for and won the Stanley Cup with the Boston Bruins, was the athlete who earned the highest wages in the league that year. Despite not having the most expensive individual player on their roster, the Tampa Bay Lightning had the highest player expenses in the NHL during the 2021/22 season, almost 31 percent higher than the average team payroll in the NHL that season. The league also provides a minimum annual player salary to protect its athletes, with the figure totaling to 750 thousand U.S. dollars per year in the 2022/23 season.
The Stanley Cup
The Stanley Cup is the pinnacle of the NHL season and is the championship trophy awarded to the winners of the league's playoffs. The Montreal Canadiens are the most successful franchise in the league in terms of championships, having won the Stanley Cup 24 times in their history. However, the Canadiens have found success hard to come by in recent years, with their most recent Stanley Cup victory coming back in the 1992/93 season. The most decorated individual player in the NHL is Henri Richard, who won an impressive 11 Stanley Cups during his career with the Canadiens from 1955 to 1975. The average viewership of the championship games experienced a resurgence in 2022, with an average of 4.59 million viewers in the United States tuning into the Stanley Cup games that year, about 89 percent more than in the previous year.
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