The first NHL team and the Original Six NHL Teams

Who Are The Original Six? NHL History Explained

What do you know about the legendary Original Six? The National Hockey League (NHL) is the number 1 Professional Ice Hockey League in the world. The NHL is popular in the USA and Canada making it one of the top four pro sports leagues in North America, and the fifth wealthiest league in the world.

Currently, the NHL has 32 teams spread across the US and Canada. For does who are die-hard fans of the game, the “Original Six” are among the foremost teams of the NHL. But that leaves the question, were they the first NHL teams?

In this article, we will be exploring the history of the NHL, the first teams of the league and information on the legendary “Original Six”. 

First Teams In The NHL: Before the Original Six

Contrary to popular belief, the National Hockey League started in 1917 with four teams. The four teams at the start of the NHL were:

  • Montreal Canadiens
  • Toronto Arenas
  • Ottawa Senators
  • Montreal Wanderers

These teams, except the Toronto Arenas, came out from another hockey league that was existing back in the day. Two of the four teams grew to become part of the Original Six, although one of them goes under a different name. To understand why the NHL started as a four-team league, we have to look into why it was formed initially. 

Brief History of The First Four NHL Teams

How was the NHL formed? The NHL, historically, is from its predecessor, the National Hockey Association (NHA). During a dispute with one of the owners of the NHA (Eddie Livingstone), the remaining four owners of the league exited the NHA to start the NHL. Later on, with one owner and multiple lawsuits, NHA completely suspended operations permanently and dissolved from being a hockey league.

During the establishment of the NHL, three of the NHA teams transitioned to the NHL and became the first 3 teams. The three teams were the Montreal Canadiens, Montreal Wanderers and Ottawa Senators. But the founders had a problem because their presence was not in Toronto, one of Canada’s biggest cities. 

As a solution, a franchise was given to the owner of the Toronto Arena Gardens and it facilitated the addition of the fourth team, The Toronto Arenas. These four teams have a popular name, the Original Four, but I suppose calling them “Founding Four” will be a better classification.

The Origin Of The Original Six

About the Original Six

Throughout the years, the NHL had gained and lost many teams. The term “Original Six”, is one that came around during the expansion of the league in 1963. The World War and Great Oppression period impacted the NHL with many teams dissolving because they went to fight in the military.

Eventually, in 1942, the NHL had six teams and with the six teams, a stable era was in motion. By stable, I mean the NHL didn’t record any expansion, contraction or even relocation of any of its teams. The six teams played each other for titles and awards.

The six teams are:

  • Montreal Canadien
  • Toronto Maple Leafs
  • Boston Bruins
  • New York Rangers
  • Chicago Blackhawks
  • Detroit Red Wings

After 25 years of play, the NHL was to have its first expansion in almost three decades. The new explanation brought about a doubling of the league’s original size of just six.

At that time, other sports leagues like the National Basketball Association (NBA), and National Football League and other sports leagues had expanded past the NHL. The new six teams of the NHL during the expansion are:

  • California Seals
  • Los Angeles Kings
  • St Louis Blues
  • Minnesota North Star
  • Philadelphia Flyers
  • Pittsburgh Penguins 

The term “Original Six” was adopted during this period by the media to differentiate between the first six teams and the new six teams. And this is how the name Original Six became a thing. 

So now you know, the original six are not the first teams of the NHL, but the team that made up the NHL from 1942-1967

The Teams That MaKe Up The Original Six

Montreal Canadiens

The Montreal Canadiens are one of the Original Six still in existence in the NHL today. The pro ice hockey team was established in 1909, however, it was one of the founding three of the NHL, joining the league in 1917. 

Since 1914, the French-Canadian team has had red, blue and white colours combinations as part of the team’s uniform. During the era of the original six, the Montreal Canadiens dominated the NHL winning 14 Stanley Cups and currently have an unbroken record of 24 Stanley’s. They also hold the record for most Stanley Cups in a row, with 5 from the 1955/56 season to the 1959/60 season.

The Montreal Canadiens are still one of the top ice hockey teams in the NHL today.

Toronto Maple Leafs

The Toronto Maple Leafs are also one of the founding three teams of the NHL. However, when it joined the NHL in 1917, it wasn’t known by its current name, rather it was called the Toronto Arenas. 

The name Toronto Arena was after their first season in the NHL (1917/18). With time, the name of the team had some changes in 1919 to Toronto St. Patricks. Eventually, the name was changed to Toronto Maple Leafs in 1927 after the team was bought by Conn Smythe. 

The Maple Leafs have 13 Stanley Cups and are the closest to the Montreal Canadiens. They also have 62 players in the NHL Hall of Fame

Boston Bruins

The Boston Bruins, unlike the first 2 teams, were not part of the founding teams of the NHL, however, they joined later on in 1924. The name of the club (Bruins) is from a classic English folk tale which means Brown Bear. The Bruins are also the oldest American ice hockey team in the NHL.

The colour of the team is black and gold. They have a record of 6 Stanley Cups with the most recent being in the 2010/11 season after battling with the Vancouver Canucks. The game ended in a 4 out of 3 game victory for the Eastern Conference champions. The original colours of the Boston Bruins are brown and yellow, however, they traded the brown for black after changing their logo.

Chicago Blackhawks

The Chicago Blackhawks are the 4th of the Original Six, joining the NHL in 1926. The original owner, Fedrick McLaughlin renamed the team which was originally the Portland Rosebud.

Fedrick served as a commander under the US army in the war of 1812. This was part of the influence that made him rename the team to “Black Hawks” after the name given to members of his division.

The colours of the Chicago Blackhawks are red, black and white. They also have the title of 6 Stanley Cups, winning the most recent cups in the 2012/13 and 2014/15 seasons. 

Detroit Red Wings

Like the Chicago Blackhawks, the Detroit Red Wings were part of the teams to join the NHL during the 1926 expansion. They were initially the Detroit Cougars, retaining the nickname of the original team “Victoria Cougars”. The Victoria Cougars team was bought and had its name changed to Detroit Cougars before it became a part of the NHL. 

From 1930 to 1932, the Cougars had their name changed twice. First, it was the Detroit Falcons before James Norris changed the name to Detroit Red Wings. The team has the record for most Stanleys by any U.S. franchise with 11 Cups won so far. The colour of the group is red and white.

New York Rangers

The New York Rangers are the last of the Original Six teams in the NHL. They came around in 1926 and in a year became the first US franchise to win a Stanley Cup. With their first Stanley in the 1927/28 season, the New York Rangers currently have a total of 4 Stanley Cups. 

The team colours are red, white and blue. They also have 49 players in the NHL Hall of Fame and boast of Madison Square Gardens as the team’s Home.

Conclusion | The Original Six

The teams of the Original Six are still recognised in the NHL today with all six teams being active clubs. The same can not be said for the founding four teams, of which only the Canadiens and Toronto Arenas (now Maple Leafs) are still in existence.

Do you think the term “Original Six” holds any prestige today? Or is it just a glorified title that these teams are trying to hang onto? Especially when considering that most of them haven’t seen a Stanley Cup in years!

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