What NHL teams no longer exist? List of hockey teams that disappeared or relocated
Using the standard franchise model for its teams, the National Hockey League is full of teams that started elsewhere, and some that disappeared forever
Hockey likes to talk of its history in simplistic terms, with an Original Six, followed by expansion, leading to today’s 32 franchises. Of course, the movement of franchises from one market to another adds a complication to the tale, but the generally linear development of the league remains intact. Except that it just isn’t so.
The Original Six, contrary to the name, aren’t original. Four of them came about as part of the NHL’s first lot of expansion. Nor were they six. Originally, they were ten. Confused? Let’s take a look at how it all came about.
When the NHL was founded in 1917, it was actually a successor to the previous National Hockey Association, which had been founded in 1909. In fact, there were 12, often overlapping and competing organizations that led to the emergence of the NHL, and of all of those teams and franchises, only one of the Original Six predates the league itself, and that is the Montreal Canadiens. Another team’s formation was the catalyst for the formation of the NHL.
The Toronto Blueshirts owner Eddie Livingstone was embroiled in a feud with Sammy Lichtenstein, owner of the Montreal Wanderers, who wanted Livingstone kicked out of the NHA. Finding that the rules did not allow an owner to simply be kicked out, Lichtenstein led the charge to create a new league, gathering all of the other owners to his side, minus Livingstone of course.
Wanting a new team in Toronto to compete in the new league, the Maple Leafs was formed and promptly won the Stanley Cup. Two of the four original NHL teams later folded and the league expanded, ultimately to ten teams. The Boston Bruins, Chicago Black Hawks, Detroit Red Wings, and New York Rangers round out the Original Six, but were not founding teams, instead being formed in 1924 and 1926 expansions.
Within this era, teams came about and floundered, with the Montreal Wanderers, Ottawa Senators, Quebec Bulldogs, Hamilton Tigers, Montreal Maroons, New York Americans, Pittsburgh Pirates, Philadelphia Quakers, and St. Louis Eagles all departing the scene before 1942. Some of these were due to the financial constraints of the Great Depression and others were finally killed off by World War II, but when the dust settled, the six teams who remained were simply referred to as “Original”.
All total, there have been 19 defunct and relocated teams in NHL history. In addition to the teams listed above, after the 1967 expansion doubled the size of the NHL, relocations have been the order of the day rather than simply closing up shop.
The California Golden Seals became the Cleveland Barons in 1976, and then went on the road again two years later to become the San Jose Sharks. The Kansas City Scouts became the Colorado Rockies in 1976 and then the New Jersey Devils in 1982. The Atlanta Flames travelled north to Calgary in 1980 while the Minnesota North Stars made the trip south to Dallas, dropping the “North” from their name in 1993. The Quebec Nordiques became the Colorado Avalanche in 1995 and the Winnipeg Jets became the Phoenix Coyotes the following year. 1997 saw the Hartford Whalers relocate to Carolina and rebrand as the Hurricanes and most recently, in 2011, the Atlanta Thrashers brought hockey back to Winnipeg, where they adopted the much-loved Jets moniker, despite having no relation to the previous team.