The National Hockey League Before The 'original Six'

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For twenty-five years prior to the 1967-68 season, the NHL was made up of just six teams. That period in NHL history is commonly known as the ‘Original Six’ era. What is often forgotten is that from the league’s inception in 1917 until 1942, the league grew to as high as ten teams.

Over and above the main six franchises (Toronto Maple Leafs, Boston Bruins, Montreal Canadiens, Chicago Black Hawks, Detroit Red Wings and New York Rangers) there were five additional franchises. Of the five that didn’t make it past the 1941-42 season, three relocated on more than one occasion.

The Montreal Wanderers played in the NHA before 1917-18 but appeared in just six games in the NHL. The team played those six games during the 1917-18 season in the Montreal Arena which had a seating capacity for hockey of 6,000. The franchise came to an end when the Montreal Arena burnt to the ground mid-season.

The original Ottawa Senators played in the NHL from 1917-18 to 1933-34. The team was quite successful, winning the Stanley Cup on four occasions and finishing first during the regular season seven times. The Senators first played out of ‘The Arena’ which seated 7,000 then moved into the Ottawa Auditorium which had a capacity for 10,000.

The Quebec Bulldogs played just one season in the NHL, 1919-20. The team won just four games while losing 20 over the 24 game schedule. The team played out of the 6,000 seat Quebec Arena. The Bulldogs moved to Hamilton the next season and became the Tigers.

The Hamilton Tigers lasted five seasons in the NHL from 1920-21 to 1924-25. The team finished last in every season except for their final one in Hamilton when they finished first in the NHL. The Tigers played out of the Barton Street Arena which seated 4,500 for hockey. The Tigers moved out of Hamilton to the bright lights of Manhattan where they became the New York Americans.

The Montreal Maroons came into the NHL in 1924-25 to replace the Montreal Wanderers as the team for the Anglophones of Montreal. The team lasted until the end of the 1937-38 season. The Maroons were Stanley Cup champions in 1925-26 then again in 1934-35. They were Canadian Division regular season champions in 1929-30 and 1935-36. The Maroons played out of the original Montreal Forum which had a capacity of 17,959.

The Pittsburgh Pirates played in the league from 1925-26 to 1929-30 without much success. The Pirates called Duquesne Gardens home, a 6,500 seat arena. The Pirates moved across the state of Pennsylvania to Philadelphia for the 1930-31 season.

The New York Americans played out of the third incarnation of Madison Square Garden from 1925-26 to 1941-42. In their final season, they were renamed the Brooklyn Americans although they still played out of Manhattan. The team was the last to leave the league before it became the ‘Original Six’.

The Philadelphia Quakers played just one season in the NHL, 1930-31. The team had a dismal season, winning just four games and tying four more over the 44 game regular season schedule. The Quakers played out of the cozy confines of the 4,000 season Philadelphia Arena.

The St. Louis Eagles played just one season in the NHL. The Ottawa Senators moved to St. Louis for the 1934-35 season and played out of the massive 20,000 seat St. Louis Arena. The St. Louis Blues would play their first game in the NHL at the same arena more than thirty years later.

When the NHL expanded in 1967-68, many of these locations gained back their NHL teams. In the first round of expansion, the Pittsburgh Penguins, Philadelphia Flyers and St. Louis Blues entered the league. Some years later, New York would gain back its second team with the Islanders and the Ottawa Senators would re-enter the league in the early 1990’s. Quebec would have a team again for a short time before losing the franchise to Denver, Colorado.

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