Many teams have come, gone, and come back again throughout the long history of the NHL. If you are familiar with the NHL and its teams you might be wondering “the Pittsburgh Pirates? The Brooklyn Americans? These teams aren't the Original Six!” Well, you are sort of right. Many of the original teams failed due to the financial problems faced during the Great Depression and the player shortage caused by the Second World War. From 1942 to 1967, the NHL had only six teams: the Boston Bruins, the Chicago Black Hawks, the Detroit Red Wings, the Montreal Canadiens, the New York Rangers, and the Toronto Maple Leafs. These teams came to be known as the “Original Six”. The NHL doubled in size by adding six new teams in 1967, the largest expansion in professional sports history. With the addition of the California Seals (later named the Oakland Seals and then the California Golden Seals), Los Angeles Kings, Minnesota North Stars, Philadelphia Flyers, Pittsburgh Penguins and the St. Louis Blues, the NHL expanded from six to twelve teams. After this major expansion, the NHL added two more teams in 1970. The Buffalo Sabres and the Vancouver Canucks brought the NHL to a total of 14 teams. The NHL went from 6 teams to 14 teams in just under 30 years. The new teams included three from the West Coast (two from California and one from Vancouver) which show that the NHL was quickly becoming popular across the entire U.S. and Canada.
Further Expansion - The Next 47 Years
Over the next 47 years, from 1970 to 2017, the NHL continued its rapid expansion to the 31 team milestone it has reached today. In 1972 the NHL added two teams, the New York Islanders, who played in the Long Island town of Uniondale, and the Atlanta Flames, who moved to Calgary eight years later. In 1974 the pattern of adding two teams every two years continued when the NHL added the Washington Capitals and the Kansas City Scouts (now the New Jersey Devils). The NHL added four more teams in 1979, with the addition of the Edmonton Oilers, Hartford Whalers, Quebec Nordiques, and the Winnipeg Jets (now the Arizona Coyotes) bringing the NHL to a total of 21 teams. Twelve years later, the league began to expand again with the addition of the San Jose Sharks, bringing the NHL to 22 teams. One year later, the NHL added the Ottawa Senators and the Tampa Bay Lightning, the first NHL team to play in Florida. In 1993, the NHL added its 25th and 26th teams, the Florida Panthers (based in Miami) and the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim. One year later the Nashville Predators joined the NHL, bringing the number of teams to 27. In 1999, nineteen years after the departure of the Flames, the NHL came back to Atlanta with the addition of the Atlanta Thrashers (now the second iteration of the Winnipeg Jets), the league’s 28th team. With the addition of the Columbus Blue Jackets and Minnesota Wild, the League reached 30 teams. The Wild brought the NHL back to Minnesota seven years after the North Stars moved to Dallas. The NHL expanded from 14 to 30 teams in just under 50 years and is continuing to expand into new areas - adding two teams in Florida, two more in California, and one each in Arizona, North Carolina and Nashville.