The constant state of expansion in the NHL

NHL-Seatle-Totems-min

Let’s face it, for the past 52 years, expansion in the NHL (National Hockey League) has been in a constant state. I don’t mean mathematically or scientifically, but in the number of teams the league has grown exponentially since it first doubled in size from six to 12 back in that milestone expansion year of 1967.

…And in the 52 years since, the league has continued to grow bit by bit from one end of North America to another, in which NHL franchises were granted to cities and regions that was made for professional hockey to grow and develop in, or to places that had you scratching your head wondering what is the team in question doing there in the first place.

What is the Original six?

During the 1920s and 30s, the NHL not only comprised of the Canadiens, Maple Leafs, Red Wings, Bruins, Rangers and Blackhawks, but also had teams in Philadelphia (the Quakers), Ottawa (the original Senators), and even additional teams in Montreal (the fabled Maroons, which won two Stanley Cups in 1926 and 1935) and New York (the Americans, or Amerks, which had those distinctive sweaters that resembled the American flag). However, the Great Depression took its toll on the league, and led to the folding of the Maroons in 1938 and the Americans in 1942. This set the stage for the Original Six era, which dominated the NHL for 25 years, led to unforgettable dynasties in Montreal, Toronto and Detroit, and a playoff structure that guaranteed the season would conclude by the middle of April.

This all changed in 1967. Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, St. Louis, Minnesota, Los Angeles and Oakland joined the league and the face of the NHL changed forever, allowing more players to join the pros, opened the doors for more American and European players, and introduced a playoff structured that closed the season as the summer began.

Since then, NHL expansion forever inflated the league, in which franchises were created in cities that you would never contemplate it could host an NHL franchise, let alone have snow on the ground throughout the height of the season. The list of post-1967 teams is quite a hodgepodge: Vancouver, Buffalo, New York (Islanders), Atlanta (Flames and Thrashers), Kansas City, Cleveland, Quebec, Edmonton, Hartford, Winnipeg, Calgary, San Jose, Tampa Bay, Ottawa, Florida, Carolina, Dallas, Anaheim, Colorado, Columbus, Minnesota (Wild), and Las Vegas.

As the new decade approaches, another city will join the ever-expanding ranks of the NHL: Seattle. It’s been over a century since that city made its mark on the world of pro hockey. In 1917, the Seattle Metropolitans of the pacific coast league became the first U.S.-based team to win the Stanley Cup (beating the NHL champion Montreal Canadiens). Two years later, the Metropolitans and the Habs were the participants in the first and only time a Stanley Cup champion was not declared. With the finals tied between the two teams, the series was delayed due to the deadly influenza epidemic, in which several players caught the flu; when Habs enforcer Bad Joe Hall died as a result of that flu bug, the series was cancelled.

Now pro hockey will return to Seattle. My question is what nickname will the new team adopt? Will it stick with the Metropolitans? How about the Sonics, the name of the city’s defunct NBA franchise? Or how about the Space Needles? I’ll put my money on the Metropolitans as others might do when they visit Betway Lines.

Finally, will that state of expansion reach its way north of the 49thParallel? Quebec and Hamilton have put up bids for potential franchises. And private and public funding pledges and new arenas notwithstanding, the NHL has said no.

And if NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman has it his way, he would rather see a revival of the Cleveland Barons than the Quebec Nordiques.

Other articles:

Montreal will host the 2020 NHL Draft

100: A Century of NHL Memories – Book Review

Carey Price will not be participating in the 2019 NHL All-Star Game

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