With the addition of the Las Vegas Golden Knights to the NHL, some might be thinking about how the NHL expanded to 31 teams over its 100-year history. How many teams did it start with? Who were they and are they still here? This edition of “Throwback Thursday” discusses the “Original Six” and what it refers to.

The Birth of the NHL

The National Hockey League was actually established well before the term “Original Six” came about. In November of 1917, four teams decided to form their own league and leave the National Hockey Association (NHA). Like many things hockey, the four club owners were having a dispute but were bound by the NHA regulations, so a fight broke out. To avoid lawsuits, the four Canadian-based teams created what is now the NHL.

Although the first NHL season started with four teams, it was quickly reduced to three when the Montreal Arena burned to the ground shortly after the season started. They later rejoined, and Montreal, Quebec, Toronto and Ottawa were the only four franchises until two more teams joined in 1924. But these teams were not the original six teams that everyone refers to.

The Actual “Original Six”

During the Great Depression and throughout World War II, many teams came and went, but the NHL was back down to six in 1942. From that time and for the next quarter of a century, only six teams competed in the NHL. And, yes, they are all still in the NHL. They are the:

  1. Montreal Canadiens
  2. Toronto Maple Leafs
  3. Detroit Red Wings
  4. Chicago Blackhawks
  5. Boston Bruins
  6. New York Rangers

Why They’re Referred To as the “Original Six”

If they weren’t the original teams, why does everyone refer to them that way? In 1967, the NHL decided to double its size. The first expansion added six more teams, so the other six franchises were coined the “Original Six” to differentiate them from the six new teams. So, even though the Montreal Canadiens and the Toronto Maple Leafs are the only two teams that actually belonged to the NHL since it was founded, the 25 years leading up to the first expansion are now known as the “Original Six Era.”

And that’s how the term “Original Six” came to be. To expand your own knowledge of hockey, check back every Thursday for more throwbacks and fun facts.

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