Canadian National Hockey League
(CNHL)


An alternate universe where "Hockey Night in Canada" remains just that. A fictional competition inspired by the pyramid structure of European football/soccer leagues.
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  • About
  • Regular Season
  • Stan Lee Cup Playoffs

About

After simulating the AFFL through over 120 seasons to the present day, my mind turned to applying the same concept to another country in a similar situation without a real-life large scale national league of its own, complete with promotion and relegation across multiple connected tiers. The natural choice was the latest country I have moved to, Canada, and (ice) hockey, the sport for which it has primarily been responsible for codifying the world's modern rules.

While not learned in the ins and outs of Canada's national sport, it is unavoidable not to notice the financial and cultural heft of its southern neighbour in the expansion and overall identity of the premier hockey league in the world. So I got to wondering what it would look like if Canada's national league had remained and prospered within its own borders. Given the dynamics between the two nations (and the proximity of almost all of Canada's population to the US border) it's a completely unrealistic idea of course but, as I did with the AFFL, the composition of federal electorates in the House of Commons overseen by Elections Canada, and their historical evolution listed on Wikipedia, became my blueprint.

The custom to bestow geographical names on all electorates (or ridings, as they are known locally) has made placing their current and historical locations much simpler than their Australian equivalents, though with more than double the number of seats and far more frequent abolitions, amalgamations and re-creations (not to mention some selected ridings in earlier years gaining multiple seats), I found team line-ups through the decades were going to be too transient if I organised the league structure in exactly the same way as the AFFL, with one team for each electoral seat.

My solution was to introduce the concept of 'Riding Strength', with city or county ridings with matching place names (or multiple seats in the same riding) pooled into single teams that are, in theory, comparitively stronger and better resourced than smaller cities and more sparsely populated rural areas. In addition, for rural ridings named for shifting amalgamations of different localities (eg "Algoma--Manitoulin--Kapuskasing"), a CNHL team will in general be named for the first locality in the riding name only, in order to provide more continuity of identity.

The final question was when to commence the competition. Unlike Australia, when Federation in 1901 conveniently co-incides with the era of births of the amateur sporting leagues that became the biggest professional competitions of today, Canada's Confederation in 1867 comes a few decades earlier. While still completely unviable in real life as the starting point for a league of this scale, I have settled on 1896, the year of the first federal election after the Stanley Cup began to be awarded from 1893, and a decade or so after the completion of the transcontinental railway.

Regional Leagues (1896–1925)

  • Teams are divided across four independently functioning league competitions covering the Maritimes (Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island), Québec, Ontario, and Western Canada (Manitoba to British Columbia and the Territories).
  • The precise number of teams in each regional league tier can fluctuate over time based on the number of real-life federal ridings in existence at each election (and how they are pooled into individual team identities), with the leagues structured as follows:
    • RegionYearsTotalFirst DivisionSecond Division
      Ontario1896–192553182 x 17–18
      Québec1896–192551–5617–182 x 17–19
      Maritimes1896–192526–3313–1613–17
      Western1896–19041515--
      Western1904–191727–3514–1713–18
      Western1917–192549172 x 16

  • For the initial 1896-97 season, teams were chosen for each division by first sorting by Riding Strength (greatest first) and then by a random seed.
  • Each team plays all other teams within their regional or sub-regional division once.
  • In each league match three points are awarded for a win in regulation time, two points for a win in overtime, one point for a loss in overtime, and zero points for a loss in regulation time.
  • In each league match the favourites are given a 60% probability of winning in regulation time and a 10% probability of winning in overtime, while the underdogs are given a 20% probability of winning in regulation time and a 10% probability of winning in overtime.
  • In each league match the team with the greater Riding Strength is considered the favourite. When the Riding Strength is equal, the team with the higher league position from the previous season is considered the favourite, with the following exceptions:
    • Teams newly promoted to the division above are given an adjustment based on the number of league points attained in the previous season by the relegated team they are replacing plus the points gap between them and their nearest rival when winning the lower division. This may (or may not) give them a higher team ranking than at the bottom of the higher division for the upcoming season.
    • Teams newly relegated to the division below are given an adjustment based on the number of league points attained in the previous season by the promoted team they are replacing minus the points gap between them and safety when finishing at the bottom of the higher division. This may (or may not) give them a lower team ranking than at the top of the lower division for the upcoming season.
    • Any new teams joining the lowest division of a league each season are ranked below all other teams with an equal or greater Riding Strength. In the case of more than one new team joining a league with the same Riding Strength in the same season, the ranking between these teams is decided by a random seed.

  • At the conclusion of each season, teams are ranked in order from most league points to least. In the event of a tie for any place, the team with the lowest ranking at the start of the season (ie, the underdog who overcame the odds) is placed higher.
  • For each division or region with a division above them in the league pyramid, the top teams from the lower division are promoted to the higher division for the following season.
  • For each division or region with a division below them in the league pyramid, an equivalent number of teams who finish at the bottom of the higher division are relegated to the lower division for the following season, subject to any restructuring needed in the event that other teams fold.
  • Once the promoted, relegated and new teams for the next season are finalised, any team may be shuffled between sub-regions within the same division for geographical 'best fit'.

National Leagues (1925–)

  • With the Canadian population continuing to grow strongly across the western provinces, particularly in comparison to the Maritimes, from the 1925-26 season the league structure is consolidated into a unified national pyramid of divisions and conferences.
  • The precise number of teams in each league tier can fluctuate over time based on the number of real-life federal ridings in existence at each election (and how they are pooled into individual team identities), with the divisions structured as follows:
    • YearsTotalFirst DivisionSecond DivisionThird DivisionFourth Division
      1925–185202 x 184 x 164 x 16–17

  • For the initial 1925-26 season, teams were chosen for each division based on finishing positions in the regional leagues the previous season (with new teams joining into the Fourth Division):
    • TotalOntarioQuébecMaritimesWestern
      First Division207733
      Second Division36131346
      Third Division641616824
      Fourth Division6516141025
      Total18552502558

  • League play for each season continues according to the same conditions outlined above for the Regional Leagues.

Stan Lee Cup Playoffs

  • Between 1897 and 1925, the four regional league champions, plus the second and third placed teams from both Québec and Ontario, compete in a post-season knock-out tournament to decide the winner of the Stan Lee Cup.
  • During this period, the quarter finals see the eight qualifiers drawn against each other as follows:
    • Match A:  Ontario champion v Third placed team from Québec
    • Match B:  Western champion v Second placed team from Québec
    • Match C:  Maritimes champion v Second placed team from Ontario
    • Match D:  Québec champion v Third placed team from Ontario

  • From 1926 onwards, the top eight finishers in the National First Division qualify for the playoffs and are drawn against each other as follows:
    • Match A:  1st Place v 8th Place
    • Match B:  4th Place v 5th Place
    • Match C:  3rd Place v 6th Place
    • Match D:  2nd Place v 7th Place

  • The semi finals see the four winners from the quarter finals drawn against each other as follows:
    • Match E:  Winner A v Winner B
    • Match F:  Winner C v Winner D

  • The final sees the two winners from the semi finals drawn against each other:
    • Match G:  Winner E v Winner F

  • In every playoff match each team's probability of winning (in regulation or overtime) is based on their Riding Strength. For example:
    • Favourite
      Strength
      Favourite
      Win
      Underdog
      Strength
      Underdog
      Win
      Equal50%Equal50%
      457%343%
      360%240%
      266%133%
      375%125%
      480%120%