The NHL is an unincorporated not-for-profit association which operates a major professional ice hockey league of 30 franchised member clubs, of which 24 are located in the United States and 6 in Canada. Headquartered in New York City, the NHL is widely considered to be the premier professional ice hockey league in the world, and one of the major professional sports leagues of the United States and Canada. The Stanley Cup, the oldest professional sports trophy in North America, is awarded annually to the league playoff champion at the end of each season.
The league was organized in 1917 in Montreal, Quebec, Canada after the suspension of operations of its predecessor organization, the National Hockey Association (NHA), which had been founded in 1909. It started with four teams and, through a series of expansions, contractions, and relocation, the league is now composed of 30 active franchises. After a “lockout” that led to the cancellation of the entire 2004–05 season, the league resumed play under a new collective bargaining agreement that included a salary cap. In 2009, the NHL enjoyed record highs in terms of sponsorships, crowds and television audiences.