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The National Hockey League (NHL) is a professional North American ice hockey league. The NHL has 31 teams with 24 in the United States and 7 in Canada. The league has 16 teams in its Eastern Conference and 15 teams in its Western Conference. In the Western Conference, the Pacific division has eight teams while the Central division has just seven. In the Eastern Conference, both the Atlantic and Metropolitan divisions have eight teams. The newest team was added to the league in 2017 as the Las Vegas Golden Knights. Another team will enter the league via expansion draft in 2021 to be the 32nd team in the NHL.
The NHL season is divided into three sections. The first section is the preseason which consists of six to eight games and runs from mid-September to early-October. The second section is the regular season which has 82 games (41 home and 41 away) between early October and mid-April. In the Eastern Conference, each team plays 28 games in their own geographic division, 4 games against each of the other 7 teams in their division. They also play three games against each non-divisional intra-conference opponent, totaling 24 games. In the Western Conference, teams play either 26 or 29 games against the other 6 or 7 teams in their geographical division, which is a total of 4 to 5 games per team. They also play three games against all six or seven of their non-divisional intra-conference opponents, which is either 21 or 24 games. All teams play every team in the opposite conference two times, once at home and once on the road.
The final section of the season is the playoffs which last from mid-April to early June. Eight teams from each conference qualify for the playoffs – the top three teams from each division and the next two teams in each conference with the best records qualify as Wild Cards. Home-ice advantage is awarded to the team with the best record in each series. This allows the home team to play four home games and three away games in a best-of-seven series. The playoffs are an elimination tournament in which a team must win three best-of-seven series in its own conference to advance to the Stanley Cup Final. The Stanley Cup Final is a best-of-seven series between the two conference winners with the winner of that series being declared that season’s champion.