How Hockey Works

The Hockey Season

During the regular season, teams receive two points for a win and one point for a tie. Teams automatically receive one point if they are tied at the end of three periods. If one team wins during overtime, it receives an additional point. For the losing team, this is known as an overtime loss. That's why NHL teams have an unusual looking win loss record, with four numbers instead of three. The fourth column is for overtime losses.

The NHL adopted a six-division, two-conference format in 1998-1999. The Eastern Conference holds the Northeast, Southeast, and Atlantic divisions, and the Western Conference is home to the Central, Northwest, and Pacific divisions. The top eight teams in each conference make the playoffs at the end of the regular season, with the division winners seeded first through third. Teams are paired off within their conference, with the top seeds playing the bottom seeds.


Each playoff round is a best-of-seven series. The top-seeded team in a given playoff series gets to play four games at its home arena, known as home-ice advantage. After three rounds, only two teams remain -- the winners of each conference final. These two teams compete in the final best-of-seven round for the Stanley Cup.