NHL celebrates its centennial at Madison Square Park

In 1917, the National Hockey League had four teams in Canada, and now — a century later — it’s celebrating all its 31 franchises across North America.

Tuesday marked 100 years of NHL games (almost 60,000 in all) and for the occasion the league is bringing the Stanley Cup to Madison Square Park.

On Dec. 27 and 28, hockey aficionados can hang out at a pop-up NHL Centennial Fan Arena, where the fabled cup will make an appearance for photo ops.

There will also be a ball hockey rink set up with clinics and a virtual reality game called “Clear The Ice Zamboni” that blows cold air on the player and makes the seat rumble. And there will be a 53-foot-long museum truck with interactive digital displays, video, memorabilia and unique photos. Another 53-foot trailer will offer team trivia and highlights and a pop-out stage for special appearances.

Fans are encouraged to donate their old hockey gear, which will go to underserved community hockey programs, according to the league.

The NHL’s long history started Nov. 26, 1917, and on Dec. 19 that year, it held its first games: the Montreal Canadiens defeated the Ottawa Senators, 7-4, at Dey’s Arena in Ottawa, and the Montreal Wanderers posted a 10-9 win over the Toronto Arenas at Westmount Arena in Montreal.

It wasn’t until 1926 that the Rangers joined as a franchise at Madison Square Garden, but they quickly proved themselves, with a Stanley Cup win in 1928.

The Islanders, currently based at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, weren’t founded until 1972 and, beginning at the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum, won four Stanley Cups between 1980 and 1983.

The Islanders are to leave Barclays for a new arena at Belmont Park, if all goes to plan.

Check out the anniversary festivities at Madison Square Park, Dec. 27, from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., and on Dec. 28, noon to 8 p.m. at 11 Madison Ave.

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