Eastern Conference (NHL)
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Eastern Conference NHL
Eastern Conference
NHL Eastern Conference.svg
Eastern Conference logo, circa 2006
LeagueNational Hockey League
SportIce hockey
Founded1974 (as the Prince of Wales Conference)
No. of teams16
Most recent champion(s)Tampa Bay Lightning
French version of the Eastern Conference logo

The Eastern Conference (French: Conférence de l'Est) is one of two conferences in the National Hockey League (NHL) used to divide teams. Its counterpart is the Western Conference.

Previously known as the Prince of Wales Conference (or Wales Conference for short), it was created in 1974 when the NHL realigned its teams into two conferences and four divisions. Because the new conferences and divisions had little to do with North American geography, geographical references were removed.


The Prince of Wales Trophy dates back to 1925, when it was donated to the League by the then-current Prince of Wales, who later became King Edward VIII and then the Duke of Windsor. It was originally given to the NHL's playoff champion. (Until 1926, the Stanley Cup was presented to the winner of a post-season playoff between the NHL and Western Hockey League champions.) Since 1926-27, the Stanley Cup has gone to the NHL's playoff champion. During the years when the NHL had no divisions, (i.e., 1925–26; 1938 to 1967), the Prince of Wales Trophy was presented to the League's regular season champion (analogous to today's Presidents' Trophy). From 1926 to 1938, the Trophy went to the American Division regular season champion; from 1967 to 1974, it was presented to the East Division regular season champion; and from 1974 to 1981, it was presented to the Wales Conference regular season champion.

The conferences and divisions were re-aligned for the 1981-82 to better reflect the geographical locations of the teams, but the existing names were retained with the Wales Conference becoming the conference primarily for the NHL's eastern teams. The names of conferences and divisions were changed for the 1993-94 season to reflect their geographic locations. Then-new NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman made the change to help non-hockey fans better understand the game, as the National Basketball Association (NBA), National Football League (NFL) and Major League Baseball (MLB) all use geographic-based names for their divisions. However, the trophy awarded to the conference champion, the Prince of Wales Trophy, retains some connection to the heritage of the League. In 2005, following the 2004-05 NHL lockout, Bettman changed the Eastern Conference logo (along with the Western Conference and NHL logos) to its current format.

Current standings

COVID-19 pandemic-shortened 2019-20 season
Pos Team GP W L OTL RW GF GA GD PCT Qualification
1 Boston Bruins 70 44 14 12 38 227 174 +53 .714 Advance to Seeding round-robin tournament[1]
2 Tampa Bay Lightning 70 43 21 6 35 245 195 +50 .657
3 Washington Capitals 69 41 20 8 31 240 215 +25 .652
4 Philadelphia Flyers 69 41 21 7 31 232 196 +36 .645
5 Pittsburgh Penguins 69 40 23 6 29 224 196 +28 .623 Advance to 2020 Stanley Cup playoffs qualifying round[1]
6 Carolina Hurricanes 68 38 25 5 27 222 193 +29 .596
7 New York Islanders 68 35 23 10 24 192 193 −1 .588
8 Toronto Maple Leafs 70 36 25 9 28 238 227 +11 .579
9 Columbus Blue Jackets 70 33 22 15 25 180 187 −7 .579
10 Florida Panthers 69 35 26 8 30 231 228 +3 .565
11 New York Rangers 70 37 28 5 31 234 222 +12 .564
12 Montreal Canadiens 71 31 31 9 19 212 221 −9 .500
13 Buffalo Sabres 69 30 31 8 22 195 217 −22 .493
14 New Jersey Devils 69 28 29 12 22 189 230 −41 .493
15 Ottawa Senators 71 25 34 12 18 191 243 −52 .437
16 Detroit Red Wings 71 17 49 5 13 145 267 −122 .275


The Wales Conference originally consisted of the Adams Division and the Norris Division. The 1981 realignment moved the Norris Division to the Clarence Campbell Conference and added that Conference's Patrick Division instead. When the names of conferences and divisions were changed in 1993, the Eastern Conference's divisions became the Atlantic and Northeast. Realignment in 1998 added a third division, the Southeast. Another realignment in 2013 reorganized the Eastern Conference into two, eight-team divisions: the Atlantic Division name retained, but was reassigned to what had been the Northeast Division, while the old Atlantic Division was renamed the Metropolitan Division; the Southeast Division was dissolved. With this 2013 realignment, all 16 teams in the Eastern Time Zone are situated within the Eastern Conference.

Champions and playoffs

The NHL's playoff system has changed over the years. Prior to 1982, the NHL had a unique playoff system relative to the NFL, NBA and MLB. Playoff teams were seeded regardless of conference affiliation.[2] As a result, two teams from the same conference could meet in the Stanley Cup Finals, as happened in 1977, 1978 and 1980. Under this system, the Wales Conference champion, and therefore the winner of the Prince of Wales Trophy, was the team that finished with the best regular season record in the conference.

Ever since the introduction of the Conference Finals in 1982, the Prince of Wales Trophy has been presented to the Wales/Eastern Conference playoff champions.

In the playoff system introduced in 1982, the top four teams in each division made the playoffs. The first-round winners met in the Division Finals, and the division final winners met in the conference finals. In this format, the division standings tended to be somewhat static, though not quite as static as in the Campbell Conference. In the Adams Division, the Boston Bruins and Montreal Canadiens never missed the playoffs in this format, while the Buffalo Sabres only missed twice. In the Patrick Division, the Washington Capitals only missed the playoffs once, the New York Islanders three times and the Philadelphia Flyers four. In both cases, this usually left the other two teams to contend for the final playoff spot. This format also raised the possibility of the strongest teams in the regular season being forced to meet in the early playoff rounds.

From 1994-2013, the top eight teams in each conference made the playoffs, with the division winners being guaranteed the top seeds (top two from 1994 to 1999 and since 2014, top three from 1999 to 2013) and home ice in the first round regardless of record.

A new playoff format was introduced as part of the 2013 realignment. Under the new post-season system that was first used during the 2014 Stanley Cup playoffs, the top three teams in each division make the playoffs, with two open wild cards spots in each conference for a total of eight playoff teams from each conference.[3]


  1. ^ a b Rosen, Dan (May 26, 2020). "Return to Play: Eastern Conference". NHL.com. National Hockey League. Retrieved 2020.
  2. ^ "List of Stanley Cup Playoff Formats". NHL.com. Archived from the original on 2010-12-17. Retrieved .
  3. ^ Dan Rosen (March 14, 2013). "Realignment plan approved by Board of Governors". NHL.com.

  This article uses material from the Wikipedia page available here. It is released under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share-Alike License 3.0.



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