One of the biggest factors you could count on in the NHL of the ’70s, ’80s and ’90s was change. The league was still building; still adding new teams and folding others. In the ’70s, new teams were added every two years, on average. But what about recently? If you follow the Golden Knights at all, you’ll know that they are the first team to be added to the league in 17 years, but the ’90s saw rapid expansion that turned the league into the NHL we know today.
In 1979, the NHL took four teams from the World Hockey Association: the Edmonton Oilers, Hartford Whalers (now the Carolina Hurricanes), Quebec Nordiques (later became the Denver Avalanche), and Winnipeg Jets (now known as the Arizona Coyotes). The Oilers became the dynasty of the ’80s, decimating records left and right, so their addition to the league was very significant.
The ’90s were a booming age for hockey, and in just nine years, the league grew from 21 teams to 30. 1991 marked a new era in expansion history, starting with the addition of the San Jose Sharks. The Sharks brought the league to 22 teams. In 1992, another two teams were added, the Ottawa Senators and Tampa Bay Lightning, Florida’s first NHL franchise. The Florida Panthers and Mighty Ducks of Anaheim were created in 1993, bringing the total to 26 teams. The addition of the Nashville Predators in 1998, the Atlanta Thrashers in 1999, and the Columbus Blue Jackets and Minnesota Wild in 2000 brought the league to 30 teams.
In 2016, Commissioner Gary Bettman announced the addition of the Las Vegas Golden Knights to the league, giving Vegas its first professional sports team. Fans might have been skeptical initially, but the Knights worked to prove themselves all season. They went six for seven in their first seven games. This is even more impressive given that of the nine teams added in the ’90s, only three managed to win more than one game out of their first seven. By bringing in talent like Reilly Smith and James Neal, the Knights gave themselves a leg up.
With the latest expansion, one can only wonder what comes next? Will more teams be added to the league? The Golden Knights are currently third in the Western Conference and first in their division, and will be making a playoff appearance, but can they win their first Stanley Cup? Only time will tell, but the Golden Knights have been an excellent addition to the league and will no doubt go on to do great things.
Is Seattle next?
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