NHL Parity: Why It Exists, Why You Should Care, and Why It’s Good for Hockey

The Los Angeles Kings, Boston Bruins, Chicago Blackhawks, Pittsburgh Penguins, Detroit Red Wings, Anaheim Ducks, Carolina Hurricanes, Tampa Bay Lightning, and New Jersey Devils.

These are the past nine Stanley Cup champions.

Notice anything peculiar?

We’ve seen no repeat champs in the National Hockey League since 1998.

No dynasties. No two-of-three. No three-of-five. Just good old-fashioned parity.

But why?

The Stanley Cup playoffs are, without question, the most grueling stretch of postseason games across all four major sports. With a possible 28 games to be played—approximately 34% of a full regular season—the league’s playoff format calls for nearly two months of some of the most grueling, draining competition.

But that’s nothing new, as the current format has been in place since the 1992-93 season and the Red Wings, Devils, and Colorado Avalanche accounted for seven of the ten titles between then and the 2001-02 season.

On that same note, the NBA adopted a nearly identical playoff format in 2006 and has seen five different champions since then.

Still, there has to be a reason.

There must be an explanation for why the playing field has leveled across the board. A reason why we just saw the Western Conference's No. 8 seed Los Angeles Kings handily defeat the Eastern Conference's No. 6 New Jersey Devils to take the title after first knocking out the 2011 runner-up Vancouver Canucks—in five games.

The most logical answer?

The NHL has finally grown up.

It started to sprout its facial hair in the early 2000s and is in full playoff-beard-mode after a string of postseasons following the lockout that are starting to make even the casual NHL fan salivate.

This is due mainly to how the league has developed after the addition of nine expansion teams in a 10-year-span from 199...

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