NHL Original 6: A History of the League’s First Teams
The National Hockey League is one of the four major sports leagues in North America and currently has 32 teams battling for the Stanley Cup each season. But it hasn’t always been that way. Part of the grandeur of the NHL is how much it’s grown since it started in 1917. With multiple expansion eras and numerous franchises relocating, much of North America has been a part of the premiere hockey league’s rise.
Six teams, known as the “Original 6,” have played perhaps the largest part in the league’s ascent. The NHL Original 6 paved the way for the success of the league and have become some of the most storied franchises in all of sports.
Here’s everything you need to know about the Original 6.
What teams were in the Original 6?
The Original 6 NHL teams were the Montréal Canadiens, Toronto Maple Leafs, Boston Bruins, Chicago Blackhawks, Detroit Red Wings, and New York Rangers. They weren’t the first NHL teams, but following the Great Depression and World War II, they were some of the original teams in the NHL that lasted. After the New York/Brooklyn Americans stopped their operations in 1942, these Original 6 played each other in the NHL for the next 25 years before the next big expansion.
The Montréal Canadiens were founded in 1909 and joined the NHL in 1917, becoming one of the charter members of the league. They are the longest-operated professional hockey club in the world. They joined the NHL along with three other NHA teams, all from Canada. Since joining the league in 1917, the Canadiens have won 24 Stanley Cup titles, the most of any franchise. The Canadiens dominated the NHL Original 6 era, led by stars like Maurice Richard, Toe Blake, and Elmer Lach. The team won 10 Stanley Cups during the 25-year span, including five straight from 1955 to 1960.
Toronto Maple Leafs
The Toronto Maple Leafs were founded in 1917 when the club joined the NHL. Originally without a team name, known simply as “Toronto,” the squad won the inaugural NHL Stanley Cup in 1918. The team was renamed the Maple Leafs in 1927 and, in total, the Maple Leafs have won 13 Stanley Cups in their history, the second most all-time. During their Original 6 run, Toronto won nine Stanley Cups, including three consecutive between 1946 and 1949. The team hasn’t won a title since the league expanded again.
The Boston Bruins joined the NHL in 1924, the first American team. Boston won their first Stanley Cup championship in 1929. They then won two more times before the Original 6 NHL teams era and then didn’t win again until the 1969-1970 season. The Bruins struggled much of the time during the Original 6 era, posting only four winning seasons between 1947 and 1967. Boston was the first NHL team to debut a Black player when Willie O’Ree played his first game in 1958.
Two years after the Bruins and Maroons joined the NHL, the league expanded again with three teams, which included the Chicago Blackhawks, Rangers, and Red Wings. The Blackhawks made the playoffs in their inaugural season in 1926 and finally broke through in the 1934 season with the club’s first Stanley Cup title. The Blackhawks have won six Stanley Cup championships in total, with three coming in their earlier years and three coming in the 21st century. The Blackhawks won once during their time as a member of the Original 6, and made the Stanley Cup Final three times during the span, thanks to stars like Bobby Hull, Stan Mikita, and Pierre Pilote.
Detroit Red Wings
The Detroit Red Wings joined the NHL in 1926 as the Detroit Cougars. Detroit took up the moniker of Red Wings in 1932 and have claimed 11 Stanley Cup championships since then, the first coming in 1936. The first season of the Original 6 era saw the Red Wings claim the Stanley Cup. The team then saw immense success with the help of Gordie Howe, Ted Lindsay, and Sid Abel, starting in 1946. The team won five titles during the Original 6 years, including ones in 1950, 1952, 1954, and 1955, and had a stretch of seven consecutive regular season titles.
New York Rangers
The New York Rangers were founded in 1926 by Tex Rickard, the president of Madison Square Garden. The team won their division in their first season and turned around to win their first Stanley Cup championship the following season. The Rangers would go on to win two more titles prior to the 1942 Original 6 era. In 1950, the team made the Stanley Cup Final but had to play all their “home” games in Toronto because the circus was being held at Madison Square Garden. The Rangers overall struggled for much of the era, missing the playoffs many times in the 1950s and early 1960s. The team have won only one title since 1940.
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