The national sport of Canada, ice hockey, is also a major spectator sport in the United States. The term “hockey,” when used in the United States, refers solely to ice hockey. Hockey involves a great deal of physical contact among players, sometimes leading to violent exchanges, with a system of penalties. Teams with players in the “penalty box” must play “short-handed,” losing the use of one of their six players for two to five minutes. Professional games consist of three periods of 20 minutes each. Protective equipment is elaborate. Professional games take place on ice rinks in indoor arenas.
In addition to Americans, many players on American professional hockey teams come from Canada, or areas of northern and eastern Europe where ice hockey is popular.
The National Hockey League (NHL) manages professional hockey in the United States, although it is actually an international hockey league, given that six of the 30 teams are in Canada. Although hockey has traditionally been associated with areas of the northern United States that see cold winters, in recent decades professional hockey teams have spread to areas of the country that never see ice outside of indoor arenas. The NHL season lasts from October through April (82 games each team), followed by a series of playoff tournaments that culminate in the awarding of the Stanley Cup trophy to the championship team.
NHL Eastern Conference:
- Atlantic Division: New Jersey Devils, New York Islanders, New York Rangers, Philadelphia Flyers, Pittsburgh Penguins
- Northeast Division: Boston Bruins, Buffalo Sabres, Montreal Canadiens, Ottawa Senators, Toronto Maple Leafs
- Southeast Division: Atlanta Thrashers, Carolina Hurricanes, Florida Panthers, Tampa Bay Lightning, Washington Capitals
NHL Western Conference:
- Central Division: Chicago Blackhawks, Columbus Blue Jackets, Detroit Redwings, Nashville Predators, St. Louis Blues
- Northwest Division: Calgary Flames, Colorado Avalanche, Edmonton Oilers, Minnesota Wild, Vancouver Canucks
- Pacific Division: Anaheim Ducks, Dallas Stars, Los Angeles Kings, Phoenix Coyotes, San Jose Sharks
Fighting among players at hockey games occurs with some frequency, and it is popular among spectators. In the NHL, the league and officials condone (unofficially) a certain level of aggression without assessing a penalty, but amateur, school, and college hockey officiators are much less tolerant of violence.
Youth hockey is popular in the United States, among families who can afford the substantial fees for ice time and the cost of the equipment.
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