History of the National Hockey League/1992–present/Pre-first lockout

The Tampa Bay Lightning and Ottawa Senators joined the league in 1992–93 as part of the owners' 1990 plan to expand the NHL to 28 teams within a decade. The Lightning made NHL history when goaltender Manon Rheaume played a period of an exhibition game for them on September 23, 1992. Rheaume became the first woman to play in an NHL game. She also became the first woman to sign a professional hockey contract, doing so with the Lightning's farm team, the Atlanta Knights. One year later, the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim and Florida Panthers began play as the NHL's 25th and 26th franchises. They were established as part of the NHL's attempt to regain a U.S. network television presence by expanding into southern North America. The league expected that bringing in Blockbuster Video's Wayne Huizenga to own the Panthers, and The Walt Disney Company to own the Mighty Ducks would raise its profile. The NHL's southward push continued in 1993 when the Minnesota North Stars moved to Dallas, Texas to become the Dallas Stars.

The acquisition of Patrick Roy helped lead the Colorado Avalanche to a Stanley Cup championship in 1996.

The NHL celebrated the 100th anniversary of the Stanley Cup in 1993. That year's finals featured Patrick Roy and the Montreal Canadiens against Wayne Gretzky and the Los Angeles Kings. After losing the first game, the Canadiens rallied from a late deficit to win game two in overtime after the Kings' Marty McSorley was penalized for using an illegal stick. Montreal scored on the power play, sending the game into overtime. Montreal won games three and four in overtime en route to winning the series in five games. The Canadiens won an NHL-record ten consecutive overtime games in the 1993 playoffs.

The New York Rangers ended their "Curse of 1940" by winning the 1994 Stanley Cup in seven games over the Vancouver Canucks. It was the Rangers' first championship in 54 years. The Eastern Conference Final was highlighted by Mark Messier's guarantee that New York would win game six of the Eastern Conference Final, which his team entered trailing 3–2 in the series. Messier scored a hat trick in that game, leading the Rangers to victory. The Rangers' championship was the last hurrah for the great Edmonton Oilers dynasty of the 1980's, as there were seven ex-Oilers on the team, including Messier, who became the first player to win Stanley Cups as the captain for two franchises, having captained the Oilers to the last of their five Stanley Cups in 1990. (As of 2009, Messier is the only player to have accomplished this feat.)