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The Original Six Teams of the NHL
You may be surprised to learn that the “Original Six” are not the original hockey teams in the NHL. The NHL, founded in 1917, had a lineup of teams that was continually in flux during the first two-plus decades of existence.
The first NHL teams were the Montreal Canadiens, Montreal Wanderers, Ottawa Senators and Toronto Arenas. The oldest hockey teams in what we now call the Original Six are the Montreal Canadiens and Toronto Arenas, who became the Maple Leafs in 1927. (The original Ottawa Senators, which formed back to 1883, folded in 1933-1934. A new Ottawa Senators franchise came to the NHL in 1992-93, but the two teams maintain separate records.)
The “Original” Hockey Teams
Considering the age of the NHL, the term “Original Six” is fairly new to its history, coming into use after the league’s expansion from six to 12 teams in 1967. The “original” hockey teams — the Montreal Canadiens, Toronto Maple Leafs, Boston Bruins, Detroit Red Wings, Chicago Blackhawks and New York Rangers — were the six teams that comprised the NHL from 1942 to 1967. The term “Original Six” was used to differentiate those teams from the expansion teams — California Seals, Los Angeles Kings, Minnesota North Stars, Philadelphia Flyers, Pittsburgh Penguins and St. Louis Blues. Let’s take a quick look at these original hockey teams.
The Montreal Canadiens joined the NHL in 1917 and were founded in 1909. The Canadiens are the oldest hockey team in the NHL, one of the oldest continuously existing sports franchises in the world, and also one of the most successful in all of sports. The Canadiens have won 24 Stanley Cups, 24 division championships, and have 64 players in the Hockey Hall of Fame. Though obviously not an American NHL franchise, its team colors are red, white and blue.
Toronto Maple Leafs
The Toronto Maple Leafs were formed and joined the NHL in 1917. The team has had a few name changes over the years, first called the Arenas (as noted earlier), then St. Patricks, and finally, in 1927, the Maple Leafs. This storied franchise has won 13 Stanley Cups and 62 players in the Hockey Hall of Fame. Team colors are blue and white.
The Boston Bruins were formed and joined the NHL in 1924. Boston has six Stanley Cup victories, 25 division championships and 51 players in the Hockey Hall of Fame. Team colors are black and gold.
The Chicago Blackhawks were formed and joined the NHL in 1926. The team was officially the Black Hawks (two words) until 1986 and is often referred to as simply “the Hawks.” The team has six Stanley Cup trophies, 16 division championships and 39 players in the Hockey Hall of Fame. Team colors are red, white and black.
Detroit Red Wings
The Detroit Red Wings were formed and joined the NHL in 1926. The Red Wings were originally the Detroit Cougars, became the Detroit Falcons in 1930, and were renamed the Detroit Red Wings in 1932. The team has the most Stanley Cup wins of any U.S. franchise, with 11. The team also has 19 division championships and 63 players in the Hockey Hall of Fame. Team colors are red and white.
New York Rangers
The New York Rangers were formed and joined the NHL in 1926 — and have the distinction of being the first U.S. franchise to record a Stanley Cup victory, in 1927-28. The team has four Stanley Cups in total, and it has 49 players in the Hockey Hall of Fame. Team colors are blue, red and white.
The Original Six: Adding It Up
These original hockey teams have collectively won 64 Stanley Cups — over half of the total since the NHL was founded. Not only that, but these original hockey teams hold positions one through six in total Stanley Cup victories among the 27 teams that have won that trophy.
Besides statistical accomplishments, these six “first” NHL teams have also fired up hockey fans in their home towns and across North America with their intense rivalries, legendary players and rich histories. In other articles we’ll take a closer look at all of this, team by team.