The National Hockey League (or NHL) is the largest and most successful North American professional hockey league. The NHL provides Canadians and Americans with the highest caliber and most entertaining hockey on the continent.
The NHL was created in 1917 by a group of Canadian and American businessmen. Their two central goals were to create a league that provided the most entertaining hockey in North America and generated revenues and profits. This was a somewhat new idea at the time. While there were some for-profit leagues in existence, most were amateur. This meant that players, coaches, and owners of teams were not allowed to make money from playing the game of hockey.
It took several decades for the NHL to become the most dominant league. In the early days, a few professional or commercial leagues competed with the NHL for the public’s entertainment dollar. Leagues competed vigorously for the best players in order to be successful and attract spectators and fans. While this was beneficial to players because they could command higher salaries, it was bad for business because owners’ expenses skyrocketed. As a result, many teams and leagues went bankrupt.
By the 1930s, however, the NHL remained as the only major professional league in North America. This effectively kept players’ salaries down and reduced expenses. The NHL’s team owners realized that in order for the league to be a successful commercial business, they would have to stop competing against each other off the ice. This was best accomplished by ensuring that only one major league existed, so that competition was reduced. To this day, the same business model is followed, and the NHL is still the only major professional hockey league in North America.
For several decades in the mid-twentieth century, the NHL owners were extremely successful financially. They generated very high profits because, having a monopoly on in the hockey market, they could limit the sale and trade of players. When players signed on to a team, they generally did so for life, and at the pay rate determined by the owner. Players were forced to accept these conditions because there were no other leagues in existence.
This all changed in the 1970s when players organized to form a players’ union. Through the collective bargaining process, players gradually fought owners for higher pay and greater rights. Today, many players are very wealthy for this reason. If it was not for the players’ union, it is likely they would still be working in similar conditions to those during the early days of the NHL: low pay and little freedom to move from team to team.
With NHL owners and players cooperating, the NHL continues to be the most successful and entertaining hockey league in North America. Teams across Canada and the United States compete for the prized Stanley Cup, the most sought-after trophy in North American hockey.