The Complete History of the NHL
Hockey On Stats

The NHL has existed since 1917. In that time frame many organizations have existed and over 50,000 games have been played. Using fivethirtyeight's NBA work as inspiration, I've compiled over 110,000+ rows of game data (every game ever played in the NHL) to create the history of the NHL in ELO format.

In simple terms, ELO is a power ranking. You get points for a win, margin of victory and lose points for losses. It's all weighted so that you gain more points if you beat a team way better than you and lose more points if you lose to someone worse than you. Over the course of history the average is weighted to 1500 ELO. Upon entering the league, teams start with an ELO of 1300, with the exception of teams that entered from the WHA. I also tracked the ELO of their performance in the WHA (Around 8 years each) and then carried it back into the NHL after adjusting it back to the average.

Turn teams on and off to see their ELO history! Check out the interactive version


Some interesting things to note:

  • The Canadiens have the highest ELO of all time, topping just over 1700.
  • The year 2004-2005 and 2012-2013 is when the lockouts occured and they're clearly visible in the chart.
  • The year During the 1970's-late 1980's, you can see how dominant the Habs, Oilers and Islanders were during their dynasty years.
  • Since the introduction of the salary cap the league is very much more even. Teams tend to not go trend extremely above or below .500 as often.
  • Notice any others? Leave your comments below.

This was a pretty grueling multi-week project so I do hope you enjoy it! It'll be updated for years to come when new games are played and I'll also continually improve the chart such as zoom, tooltips, game by game exploration and more. If you think you see an error or have a suggestion, feel free to reach out.


Written by: @Daveedgamboa

Graphs built with d3.js and excel. Data obtained via hockeyreference.