How Many Games Are in an NHL Regular Season?

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The National Hockey League 2019-2020 season is underway. Each of the 31 teams in the league will play 82 games total during the regular season: 41 games on home ice and 41 on the road. In general, the NHL regular season starts in October and extends to April of the following year, with playoff games taking place during the next two months, ending in the Stanley Cup championships in June.

Preseason Games

The NHL regular season is preceded by 8-10 exhibition or preseason games to get the players up to opening game readiness. These games are played in late September. This preseason period is important for players not only to get back into game shape, but for coaches to also assess new players on the team, gauge the team’s on-ice chemistry, and make any position adjustments before the regular season.

Regular Season Games

Through the years, the NHL has grown to the current 31 teams playing 82 games. In contrast, during the 1980s, there were 21 teams playing 80 games in the season. As each team goes through the season, they are competing to win their division and advance to the postseason games, otherwise known as the playoffs.

There are 15 teams that play in the Western Conference, and 16 teams play in the Eastern Conference. Each team gains points for their wins and ties and, at the end of the regular season, the top eight teams in both conferences based on points accrued advance to the postseason playoff games.  

All-Star Game Break

The NHL All-Star Game is held annually in late January and symbolically is the midseason point for the players, coaches, and team personnel. The All-Star Game is held during a mandatory week in which all the teams are given a bye and have no games scheduled, unless the player is involved in the All-Star Game and its related festivities. 

Postseason Games

Once the 82-game season ends, it’s time for the NHL playoffs to begin, with the top 16 teams qualifying. Once a team qualifies for the postseason playoff games, its players will play for at least four more games, and possibly more if they win. In sum, a team could potentially play 28 more games, if each round goes the full seven games in each of the four playoff series

The conference-championship winning teams play in the Stanley Cup. The winner of the Stanley Cup series is the champion for that season.