Original 6

Who Were The Original Six Hockey Teams?

In the annals of professional hockey history, a select group of franchises, known as the ‘Original Six,’ embody the NHL’s rich heritage, celebrated for their legendary rivalries and lasting impact on the sport.

The Original Six:

  1. Montreal Canadiens
  2. Boston Bruins
  3. Toronto Maple Leafs
  4. Chicago Blackhawks
  5. New York Rangers
  6. Detroit Red Wings

The Original Six Were Not Really Original

Many people are often surprised that the original six teams were actually not the original six teams in the NHL.

The original six refers to a steady era within the NHL when the league neither shrank nor grew.

Number of NHL Teams Since 1917 Chart - Original 6

For 25 years, from 1942 to 1967, the NHL stayed at just six teams – the longest continuous set of NHL teams to ever exist in the NHL.

The Montreal Canadiens Are The Only Original Team

The oldest of the Original six teams is the Montreal Canadiens.

They are the only team from the Original six that played in the inaugural season of the NHL in 1917. Hence, the Canadiens are the only real “original” team that’s still around.

The other Original six teams joined sporadically throughout the 1920s and 30s:

Team Name Joined
Montreal Canadiens 1917
Boston Bruins 1924
Toronto Maple Leafs 1926
Chicago Blackhawks 1926
New York Rangers 1926
Detroit Red Wings 1932

The Original 4

As mentioned, the NHL actually started off with four original teams instead of the “Original six.”

The following are the original teams of the NHL from 1917:

  1. Montreal Canadiens
  2. Ottawa Senators
  3. Toronto Arenas
  4. Montreal Wanderers

The Original Ottawa Senators Folded

Some might be confused to see that the Ottawa Senators were part of the Original Four but not the Original Six.

That’s because the team folded before the Original Six era.

Although the Sens were successful on the ice, winning 4 Stanley Cups during their time in the NHL, they struggled financially.

They were forced to relocate to St. Louis in 1934 but were unable to resolve their financial struggles, ultimately suspending operations that very same year.

The Montreal Wanderers Tragic End – 1918

The early years of the NHL were filled with some very unfortunate events.

One of these events included the league losing one of its teams in just its first year.

The Montreal Wanderers were only four games into the season when their home arena, the Montreal Arena, burned down on January 2nd, 1918.

The team was forced to pull out of the league.

Consequently, the NHL finished the 1917-18 season with just 3 teams.

The 1919 Spanish Flu Nearly Ended The NHL

The second year of the NHL wasn’t much better than the first.

In 1919, the entire world suffered from the outbreak of the Spanish Flu. This later became known as the Spanish Flu Pandemic of 1918, and it remains one of the deadliest pandemics in recent history.

There was no Stanley Cup final that year as the majority of the Montreal Canadiens fell ill to the flu, leaving only three healthy players available.

The virus tragically claimed the lives of two Montreal Canadiens and was likely the scariest time in the club’s history.

What’s The Oldest NHL Team?

The oldest team in the NHL is still the Montreal Canadiens. They have been a part of the NHL since 1917.

Their long history spans over 100 years and includes 24 Stanley Cups, the most of any NHL team.

They saw amazing success during the 40s with the help of goal-scoring legend Rocket Richard, and then again in the 70s with another all-time great, Guy Lafleur.

Why Are The Original 6 Famous?

The Original 6 weren’t the original 6 teams in the NHL. They are not necessarily the best either.

So what makes them so great?

Why is the “Original 6” such an iconic era in hockey?

The answer is beef.

The Original 6 Had A Lot of Beef

The Original Six Era lasted twenty-five years, from 1942 to 1967.

This means that teams played the same five opponents, game after game, every season, for twenty-five years.

And if that wasn’t enough, during this era, the number of games in an NHL season was increased from 50 games to 70.

All of this culminated in intense, spectacular rivalries, AKA beef.

The graph below shows the NHL “Beef Index” over time, which just shows the number of times a team would play the same opponent in a season:

1967 NHL Expansion

Another reason why the Original Six is remembered so fondly is because it was followed by the largest expansion in NHL history.

The 1967 NHL expansion saw the league double in size, from six teams to twelve, and saw the addition of the following teams:

  1. Pittsburgh Penguins
  2. Los Angeles Kings
  3. Philadelphia Flyers
  4. St. Louis Blues
  5. Oakland Seals
  6. Minnesota North Stars

This expansion kickstarted two of the most exciting decades in hockey, the 1970s and 80s. These were the youngest, and highest-scoring decades in NHL history.

The Leafs Haven’t Won In Over Half A Century

One commonly cited fact, especially by Habs fans, is that the Leafs haven’t won a Stanley Cup in over 50 years.

In fact, they hold the record for the longest NHL Stanley Cup drought, with their last cup win being in 1967 – just before the ’67 expansion.

Leafs fans have had to watch their team struggle for decades now, with sporadic glimmers of hope sprinkled throughout the seasons.

However, the Leafs have been on a massive redemption arc lately, setting club records for the highest win-loss ratios ever.

If all goes well, their future seems very promising.





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