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.
Eastern Conference logo, circa 2006
|League||National Hockey League|
|Founded||1974 (as the Prince of Wales Conference)|
|No. of teams||16|
|Most recent Eastern Conference champion(s)||Washington Capitals|
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. 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 conferences and 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.
|1||y – Washington Capitals||82||48||26||8||44||278||249||+29||104|
|2||x – New York Islanders||82||48||27||7||43||228||196||+32||103|
|3||x – Pittsburgh Penguins||82||44||26||12||42||273||241||+32||100|
|1||p – Tampa Bay Lightning||82||62||16||4||56||325||222||+103||128|
|2||x – Boston Bruins||82||49||24||9||47||259||215||+44||107|
|3||x – Toronto Maple Leafs||82||46||28||8||46||286||251||+35||100|
|1||ME||x – Carolina Hurricanes||82||46||29||7||44||245||223||+22||99|
|2||ME||x – Columbus Blue Jackets||82||47||31||4||45||258||232||+26||98|
|6||ME||New York Rangers||82||32||36||14||26||227||272||−45||78|
|8||AT||Detroit Red Wings||82||32||40||10||29||227||277||−50||74|
|9||ME||New Jersey Devils||82||31||41||10||28||222||275||−53||72|
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.
|Atlantic Division||Metropolitan Division|
|Boston Bruins||Carolina Hurricanes|
|Buffalo Sabres||Columbus Blue Jackets|
|Detroit Red Wings||New Jersey Devils|
|Florida Panthers||New York Islanders|
|Montreal Canadiens||New York Rangers|
|Ottawa Senators||Philadelphia Flyers|
|Tampa Bay Lightning||Pittsburgh Penguins|
|Toronto Maple Leafs||Washington Capitals|
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. 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.
Since 1994, the top eight teams in each conference make 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.
The 1975–76 Montreal Canadiens season was the club's 67th season. The Canadiens won their 19th Stanley Cup in club history.1976–77 Montreal Canadiens season
The 1976–77 Montreal Canadiens season was the Canadiens' 68th season. The team is regarded to be the greatest NHL team ever composed. The Canadiens won their 20th Stanley Cup in 1976–77, taking the NHL championship. They set an NHL record for most points in a season by a team with 132 points. They outscored their opponents by 216 goals (also a league record), a differential average of 2.7 goals per game.Of the 24 players on the roster, 14 were drafted by the Canadiens: Pierre Bouchard, Rick Chartraw, Brian Engblom, Bob Gainey, Rejean Houle, Guy Lafleur, Michel Larocque, Pierre Mondou, Bill Nyrop, Doug Risebrough, Larry Robinson, Steve Shutt, Mario Tremblay, and Murray Wilson. The only player on the roster not developed by the Canadiens was Peter Mahovlich.1977–78 Montreal Canadiens season
The 1977–78 Montreal Canadiens season was the team's 69th season. The Canadiens won their third straight Stanley Cup, and 21st overall.1978–79 Montreal Canadiens season
The 1978–79 Montreal Canadiens season was the club's 70th season. The franchise won 52 games and had 11 ties, but finished second overall in the league. The New York Islanders finished first overall by one point over the Canadiens. The Canadiens won the Stanley Cup for the fourth consecutive time, the fifteenth time in the past twenty-four seasons, and their twenty-second overall. The Canadiens won the Stanley Cup on home ice for the first time since 1968.1979–80 Buffalo Sabres season
The 1979–80 Buffalo Sabres season was the Sabres' tenth season of operation for the National Hockey League franchise that was established on May 22, 1970. The team was awarded the Prince of Wales Trophy for finishing with the best regular season record in the Prince of Wales Conference.1980–81 Montreal Canadiens season
The 1980–81 Montreal Canadiens season was the club's 72nd season of play. The Canadiens lost just once in their last twenty-seven home games. The Canadiens would earn at least 100 regular season points for the seventh consecutive season. Montreal qualified for the playoffs and were eliminated in the NHL's Preliminary round by the Edmonton Oilers three games to none. Four days after the Canadiens were eliminated, head coach Claude Ruel resigned.1981–82 New York Islanders season
The 1981-82 New York Islanders season was the tenth season in the franchise's history. It involved winning the Stanley Cup.1982–83 New York Islanders season
The 1982-83 New York Islanders season was the 11th season in the franchise's history. It involved winning their fourth consecutive Stanley Cup.1983–84 New York Islanders season
The 1983–84 New York Islanders season was the 12th season for the franchise in the National Hockey League. This season involved participating in the Stanley Cup Finals, but losing the Cup to the Edmonton Oilers.1985–86 Montreal Canadiens season
The 1985–86 Montreal Canadiens season was the team's 77th season. The team won the Stanley Cup for the first time in seven seasons, and their 23rd overall.1987–88 Boston Bruins season
The 1987–88 Boston Bruins season was the Bruins' 64th season. The season involved participating in the Stanley Cup finals.1988–89 Montreal Canadiens season
The 1988–89 Montreal Canadiens season was the club's 80th season of play. The Canadiens finished first in the Adams Division, as well as the Prince of Wales Conference, with a 53–18–9 record for 115 points. The team finished second overall in the league behind the Calgary Flames, who had 117 points. Montreal defeated the Hartford Whalers, Boston Bruins and Philadelphia Flyers in the playoffs before meeting the Flames in the Stanley Cup Finals. Calgary took the series 4–2, clinching the Cup in Game 6 on the Canadiens' vaunted home ice, the Montreal Forum. This marked the only time that a visiting team defeated the Canadiens to win the Stanley Cup on Forum ice.
The Canadiens were coached by Pat Burns and captained by Bob Gainey.1989–90 Boston Bruins season
The 1989–90 Boston Bruins season was the Bruins' 66th season. The season culminated with their participation in the Stanley Cup finals.1992–93 Montreal Canadiens season
The 1992–93 Montreal Canadiens season was the Montreal Canadiens' 76th season in the NHL, and their 84th overall. Coming off of a disappointing second round playoff exit against the Boston Bruins during the 1991–92 season, the 3rd straight season the Bruins had defeated the Habs in the playoffs, the Canadiens were champions for the 1992–93 NHL season.
As of 2019, the Canadiens are the most recent Canadian-based team to win the Stanley Cup, having won the 1993 Stanley Cup Finals.2001–02 Carolina Hurricanes season
The 2001–02 Carolina Hurricanes season was the franchise's 23rd season in the National Hockey League and fifth as the Hurricanes. The Hurricanes made it as far as the Stanley Cup Final, but lost in five games to the Detroit Red Wings.2005–06 Carolina Hurricanes season
The 2005–06 Carolina Hurricanes season was the franchise's 34th season, 27th season in the National Hockey League and ninth as the Hurricanes. The Hurricanes won the Stanley Cup to win the second championship in team history. In 1973, the Whalers won the inaugural championship of the World Hockey Association.East Division (NHL)
The East Division of the National Hockey League existed from 1967 until 1974 when the league realigned into two conferences of two divisions each.
In 1967, the NHL doubled in size, going from six teams to twelve. The Original Six, as the pre-1967 teams became retroactively known, were grouped into the East Division, while the expansion teams were placed into the West Division. This was done in order to keep teams of similar competitive strength in the same division, regardless of geographic distance, and to ensure playoff revenue for the new franchises. This competitive imbalance would lead to East Division teams winning the Stanley Cup in six of the seven years the league was divided into two divisions. Another consequence was that in 1969–70, the Montreal Canadiens, who had finished the season with 92 points (more than any team in the West Division), missed the playoffs – the only time between 1948–49 and 1993–94 that they did so.
When the NHL expanded again in 1970, the two new teams, the Vancouver Canucks and Buffalo Sabres, were placed into the stronger East Division. In an effort to create more balanced competition, the Chicago Black Hawks were transferred into the West Division. When the NHL expanded again in 1972, each division was given one of the expansion clubs, with the New York Islanders joining the East Division and the Atlanta Flames joining the West Division.
By 1974, another two teams (the Washington Capitals and Kansas City Scouts) entered the NHL, and as a result the league underwent a major overhaul. The East and West Divisions were renamed the Prince of Wales and Clarence Campbell Conferences, respectively, composed of nine teams each. The conferences were further divided into two divisions: the Norris and Adams Divisions for the Wales Conference, and the Patrick and Smythe Divisions for the Campbell Conference. Because the Conferences were not geographically based, the league opted to name the conferences and divisions after notable persons associated with the NHL.NHL Conference Finals
The National Hockey League (NHL) Conference Finals are the Eastern Conference and Western Conference championship series of the NHL. The Conference Finals are best-of-seven series, and comprise the third round of the Stanley Cup playoffs. The two series are played in mid-to-late May (early June in 1995 and 2013, due to labour disputes that delayed the start of the season). The winners of the Eastern and Western Conference Finals receive the Prince of Wales Trophy and Clarence S. Campbell Bowl, respectively, and advance to face each other in the final round.Prince of Wales Trophy
The Prince of Wales Trophy, also known as the Wales Trophy, is an award presented by the National Hockey League (NHL) to the Eastern Conference (formerly the Wales Conference) playoff champions, prior to the final series of games for the Stanley Cup. Named for Prince Edward, Prince of Wales (later King Edward VIII and then Duke of Windsor), the trophy was first presented in the 1925–26 NHL season to the champion of the first game in Madison Square Garden and then subsequently presented to the champion of the NHL playoffs (including the previous two seasons). However, the trophy has been awarded for eight different accomplishments throughout its history, including for the American Division regular season champions, the NHL regular season champions, the East Division season champions, the Wales Conference regular season champions, the Wales Conference playoff champions, and the Eastern Conference playoff champions. The current holder of the Prince of Wales Trophy are the Washington Capitals, after winning the 2018 Eastern Conference Final.
National Hockey League divisions