The history of the National Hockey League begins with the end of its predecessor league, the National Hockey Association, in 1917. The NHLs first quarter-century saw the league compete against two rival major leagues—the Pacific Coast Hockey Association and Western Canada Hockey League—for players and the Stanley Cup, the NHLs footprint spread across Canada as Foster Hewitts radio broadcasts were heard coast-to-coast starting in 1933. The Great Depression and World War II reduced the league to six teams, later known as the Original Six, by 1942. Maurice Richard became the first player to score 50 goals in a season in 1944–45, Gordie Howe made his debut in 1946, and retired 35 seasons later as the NHLs all-time leader in goals and points. China Clipper Larry Kwong becomes the first non-white player in the league, breaking the NHL colour barrier in 1948, Willie ORee broke the NHLs black colour barrier when he suited up for the Bruins in 1958. In 1959, Jacques Plante became the first goaltender to regularly use a mask for protection, the Original Six era ended in 1967 when the NHL doubled in size by adding six new expansion teams. The six existing teams were formed into the newly created East Division, the NHL continued to expand, adding another six teams, to total 18 by 1974. Bobby Hull was the most famous player to defect to the rival league, eventually, Soviet-Bloc players streamed into the NHL with the fall of the Iron Curtain in 1989. Since then, the league has grown from 22 teams in 1992 to 31 today as the NHL spread its footprint across the United States, Wayne Gretzky passed Gordie Howe as the NHLs all-time leading scorer in 1994 when he scored his 802nd career goal. Mario Lemieux overcame non-Hodgkin lymphoma to finish his NHL career with over 1,700 points, increased use of defence-focused systems helped cause scoring to fall in the late 1990s, leading some to argue that the NHLs talent pool had been diluted by 1990s expansion. The first attempts to regulate competitive ice hockey came in the late 1880s. Before then, teams competed in tournaments and infrequent challenge contests that prevailed in the Canadian sports world at the time, in 1887, four clubs from Montreal formed the Amateur Hockey Association of Canada and developed a structured schedule. In 1892, Lord Stanley donated the Stanley Cup to be symbolic of the Canadian championship and appointed Philip Dansken Ross and it was awarded to the AHAC champion Montreal Hockey Club and thereafter awarded to the league champions, or to any pre-approved team that won it in a challenge. In 1904, the International Hockey League, based around Lake Michigan, was created as the first fully professional league, in recruiting players, the IHL caused an Athletic War that drained amateur clubs of top players, most noticeably in the Ontario Hockey Association. In the 1905–06 season, the Eastern Canada Amateur Hockey Association was formed, which mixed paid and amateur players in its rosters, bidding wars for players led many ECAHA teams to lose money, and it eventually folded on November 25,1909. As a result of the dissolution of the ECAHA, two leagues were formed—the Canadian Hockey Association and the National Hockey Association. Since the NHAs owners were notable, wealthy businessmen, the CHA did not complete a season, as the NHA easily recruited the top players, and interest in the CHA teams faded. By 1914, the rival Pacific Coast Hockey Association league was launched, the National Hockey League came into existence with the suspension of the NHA in 1917
Map of Canadian provinces and U.S. states, and what decade they got their first NHL team.
Maple Leaf Gardens in 1934
The sweater of the Philadelphia Quakers, in 1931–32; the Quakers were one of four franchises to fail between 1931 and 1942.
Red Dutton briefly served as NHL president between 1943 and 1946.