How Many NHL Teams Are There?

The National Hockey League has witnessed many changes since its roots in 1917. Starting with only four teams, the meagre beginning ended up paving the way toward the multi-billion dollar organization of today’s NHL.

But how many NHL teams are there? If you asked that same question as little as a few years ago, you’d get a different answer. But as of today, there are thirty-two teams in the NHL.

There are NHL teams in two countries, the United States and Canada. Some states have more than one NHL team, while others have none. Two states can’t get enough of the frozen sport and have three teams within their borders. Can you guess which ones?

In this post, we’re going to provide the entire list of all thirty-two NHL teams currently in existence, plus we’ll go over how they are split into divisions and will go over a variety of other details about the league and how it has changed over time.

The next time you’re ready to meet some contenders for a trivia game night, you can have the confidence to tackle the NHL questions that no one else will.

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How Many NHL Teams Are There?

Let’s get things started with the basics. How many NHL teams are there? Thirty-two teams exist, and here they are in alphabetical order.

  • Anaheim Ducks
  • Arizona Coyotes
  • Boston Bruins
  • Buffalo Sabres
  • Calgary Flames
  • Carolina Hurricanes
  • Chicago Blackhawks
  • Colorado Avalanche
  • Columbus Blue Jackets
  • Dallas Stars
  • Detroit Red Wings
  • Edmonton Oilers
  • Florida Panthers
  • Los Angeles Kings
  • Minnesota Wild
  • Montreal Canadiens
  • Nashville Predators
  • New Jersey Devils
  • New York Islanders
  • New York Rangers
  • Ottawa Senators
  • Philadelphia Flyers
  • Pittsburgh Penguins
  • San Jose Sharks
  • Seattle Kraken
  • St. Louis Blues
  • Tampa Bay Lightning
  • Toronto Maple Leafs
  • Vancouver Canucks
  • Vegas Golden Knights
  • Washington Capitals
  • Winnipeg Jets
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NHL Teams in Each Division

The NHL divides its teams into two conferences, the Eastern Conference and the Western Conference. As you can imagine, these are primarily divided based on geographic location.

That helps make it easier for the teams to compete against one another regularly, plus the fans connect to the players and rivals near them. It might also reduce home-court advantages

Each conference has two divisions, for four divisions total across the entire NHL. The Eastern Conference is composed of the Atlantic and the Metropolitan divisions, while the Western Conference has the Central and Pacific divisions.

Eight teams are in each division for an even distribution of the NHL’s thirty-two teams.

Here is how the NHL divides the teams into their conferences and divisions.

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Eastern Conference

Includes the following.

Atlantic Division

  • Boston Bruins
  • Buffalo Sabres
  • Detroit Red Wings
  • Florida Panthers
  • Montreal Canadiens
  • Ottawa Senators
  • Tampa Bay Lightning
  • Toronto Maple Leafs

Metropolitan Division

  • Carolina Hurricanes
  • Columbus Blue Jackets
  • New Jersey Devils
  • New York Islanders
  • New York Rangers
  • Philadelphia Flyers
  • Pittsburgh Penguins
  • Washington Capitals
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Western Conference

Includes the following.

Central Division

  • Arizona Coyotes
  • Chicago Blackhawks
  • Colorado Avalanche
  • Dallas Stars
  • Minnesota Wild
  • Nashville Predators
  • St. Louis Blues
  • Winnipeg Jets

Pacific Division 

  • Anaheim Ducks
  • Calgary Flames
  • Edmonton Oilers
  • Los Angeles Kings
  • San Jose Sharks
  • Seattle Kraken
  • Vancouver Canucks
  • Vegas Golden Knights
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How Did the NHL Get To Thirty-Two Teams?

You already know that the NHL started with just four teams. So how did it grow to become thirty-two? Was one added each year? Was there an explosive time when dozens of teams sprouted out of nowhere?

Well, it’s a bit of both. There have been regular additions to the NHL team lineup throughout its more than 100-year history. But there have also been times when it seems hockey fans couldn’t get enough, and multiple teams came to be all at once.

The 1917 start was a rough one. While four teams started the season, only three existed by the end. A fire caused the Montreal Arena to burn, putting two teams out of a home venue. One was able to relocate, but the other disbanded, and only three were left to finish the 1917 season.

Of the original four teams, two still exist today, the Canadians and the Maple Leafs.

Eventually, the league grew slowly, reaching seven teams by the mid-1920s. For the next couple of decades through the early 1940s, there wasn’t a lot of change in the amount of NHL teams, and they held constant with about 7 to 10 teams each year.

Original Six Era

In the season-ending in 1943, taking place during the Second World War, just six teams remained in the NHL. For the next 25 years, these same six teams played one another for the championship title. The NHL did not add any, and no teams disbanded.

All six of these teams from 1943 still exist today. They are the Montreal Canadiens, Toronto Maple Leafs, Chicago Blackhawks, Boston Bruins, Detroit Red Wings, and the New York Rangers.

If you know much of anything about hockey, these teams probably ring a bell. They are known for having some of the most die-hard fans, even to this day. It all makes sense due to their deep history.

This period is known as the Original Six Era.

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1967 NHL Expansion

While one could have answered the question “How many NHL teams are there?” with the same answer for 25 years, everything changed in 1967. In one quick swoop, the NHL doubled the number of teams by adding another 6, making 12 total.

The 1967 additions were the Los Angeles Kings, Minnesota North Stars, Oakland Seals, Philadelphia Flyers, Pittsburgh Penguins, and St. Louis Blues. Some of these teams, including the Kings, Flyers, Penguins, and Blues, have made it to the present day.

The new teams had a tough time ahead. The Original Six were well established and retained their best players. The new ones had to make do with players from the less-competitive Western Hockey League where they came from, in addition to some recruits and other castoffs.

The Minnesota North Stars came from deep within hockey country, but unfortunately, they struggled to find any success. The same was true for the Oakland Seals. After multiple moves and merges, the North Stars merged with the Seals. They eventually ended up in Dallas, Texas.

That team became the Dallas Stars, who are still around today.

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Continued NHL Expansion

The 12 teams from 1967 eventually grew into the 32 teams we have today. How many NHL teams were there during the time in between? It was a slow, steady growth.

By 1992, a total of 22 teams existed in the NHL. Some of the teams from that day have moved to other areas, simply taking on new names and, in some cases, new ownership.

The Hartford Whalers and Quebec Nordiques are two examples of teams that no longer exist.

The Hartford Whalers started in the World Hockey Association in the 1970s as the New England Whalers, based out of Boston, Massachusetts. The team moved to Hartford, Connecticut in 1974 and joined the NHL in 1979 under the new town’s name.

Eventually, the Hartford Whalers relocated to North Carolina. The team was renamed the Hurricanes, and the Carolina Hurricanes are still part of the NHL today. They even won the Stanley Cup Championship during the 2005 to 2006 season.

The other team mentioned, the Quebec Nordiques, faced a similar story. After starting in the WHA in the 1970s, they joined the NHL in 1979. But in 1995, the team moved to Colorado and took the name Avalanche, which still plays today.

The Colorado Avalanche accomplished an incredible feat in their first year based out of a new city, winning the Stanley Cup Championship immediately upon arrival. They have taken the Stanley Cup title once more since the move.

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Newest NHL Teams

As you can see, many changes have happened over the long course of the NHL’s history. Teams have moved, merged, been renamed, and dissolved. If one thing is certain, there are sure to be more changes in the future.

Most recently, two NHL teams have joined the league as expansion teams. This distinction means that they were created as new teams, not just a simple relocation, which is an incredible feat in today’s world with some teams established for over a century.

But thanks to talented agents who have figured out how to help new teams attract talent, and to the cities and new owners who were able to erect entire stadiums out of thin air, more cities now host their own NHL teams.

The newest NHL team is the Seattle Kraken. They joined during the 2021-2022 season, based out of Seattle, Washington. It took multiple years to go from the NHL approval in 2018 to the eventual joining of the NHL in 2021.

The Kraken have their first season behind them, where they were unable to find much success. Unfortunately, they did not qualify for the playoffs and have some work ahead to become more competitive in future years.

Shortly before the Kraken joined, another expansion team came to the NHL in 2017. This was the Vegas Golden Knights, playing out of Paradise, Nevada, adjacent to the city of Las Vegas.

The Vegas Golden Knights have found quite a bit of success early in their time as an NHL team. They made it to the Stanley Cup Finals in their first year, although suffered a final-round defeat. Since then, they have made it into the playoff for the last three out of four years.

As the Knights and Avalanche have shown, you never know when the newest NHL team will be a serious contender. You can’t always dismiss the newest team on the block.

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Canadian NHL Teams

The NHL might not make it into the top 10 most popular sports across the globe, but unlike other major sports leagues in the United States, the NHL is an international organization with teams established in Canada. How many NHL teams are there in Canada? 

There are 7 NHL teams in Canada. They are the Calgary Flames, Edmonton Oilers, Montreal Canadiens, Ottawa Senators, Toronto Maple Leafs, Vancouver Canucks, and Winnipeg Jets.

How Many States Have Multiple NHL Teams?

As you can probably imagine, some states can handle more professional hockey teams than others. Maybe it’s the demand for the somewhat strange sport which requires a frozen layer of ice to play on, or it could be due to the population differences.

Whatever the cause, some states have no NHL teams and multiple states host more than one NHL team. Two states have an impressive three NHL teams that call them home.

With almost 12% of the US population and over 4% of US land mass, it probably doesn’t surprise you to find that California is one of the two states with three NHL teams. They are the Anaheim Mighty Ducks, Los Angeles Kings, and San Jose Sharks, all playing in the Pacific Division.

The other state which hosts three NHL teams probably doesn’t surprise you very much either. With nearly 5% of the US population, New York is home to 3 NHL teams. New York is home to the Buffalo Sabres, New York Islanders, and New York Rangers.

Not only do the Islanders and the Rangers play out of the same city, New York City, but they also play in the same division. The Sabres are part of the Atlantic Division.

Florida is home to 2 NHL teams, including the Florida Panthers and Tampa Bay Lightning, while Pennsylvania is home to 2 others, the Philadelphia Flyers and Pittsburgh Penguins.

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How Many NHL Teams Are There: Wrap Up

The NHL has thirty-two teams in total, spread out over two conferences with a total of four divisions. The Eastern Conference has the Atlantic and Metropolitan Divisions, while the Western Conference has the Central and Pacific Divisions.

What started with just four teams back in 1917 expanded into twelve in 1967, and has steadily grown to the thirty-two we have now.

While no one can be sure about what is going to come in the future, it seems quite likely that the NHL will have more changes. Teams might move, new expansion teams might come to be, and teams could disband completely.

But for now, there are thirty-two teams in the NHL.


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