Hockey fans don’t agree on much, but every now and then we let our guard down and a consensus forms. Unfortunately, just because we all agree doesn’t necessarily mean we’re right.
A few months ago, we set the record straight on five common NHL myths. No, Andre “Red Light” Racicot wasn’t terrible. Yes, the Senators’ decision to keep Wade Redden over Zdeno Chara actually did make sense. No, Ulf Samuelsson’s knee-on-knee hit didn’t end Cam Neely’s career.
It was a start, but there’s more work to do. So in our continuing quest for the unvarnished truth, or at least for slightly more accurate fallacies, here are five more facts that every hockey fan already knows … and that every hockey fan is dead wrong about.
In the Beginning, There Were the Original Six
Every fan knows about the fabled Original Six, because the NHL really gives you no choice in the matter. The Hawks, Wings, Leafs, Habs, Bruins, and Rangers are the six oldest teams in the league, and for many years they made up the entire NHL. The league’s marketing department rarely passes up an opportunity to remind us of that legacy, and to this day, any matchup between two Original Six teams is treated as something special.
But despite what the name would suggest, the “Original Six” weren’t really the league’s original teams. The league had plenty of other franchises come and go during its first few decades, and spent most of that time operating with more than six teams.
The NHL was founded in 1917, following the demise of the National Hockey Association. It started off with four teams, and when the Montreal Wanderers disbanded halfway through the season after their arena burned down, the league was left with just three: the Montreal Canadiens, the Ottawa Senators, and a nameless Toronto franchise that would eventually become the Maple Leafs.
As the years went by, the league saw teams appear in Quebec City and Hamilton. The Bruins were the first American team, joining the league in 1924. The Rangers and Blackhawks followed in 1926, as did a Detroit franchise that would eventually be renamed the Red Wings.
So it took almost a decade for all six of the “Original Six” franchises to wind up in the NHL — and even then, the league also included teams like the Pittsburgh Pirates and St. Louis Eagles at various points. It wasn’t until 1942, a quarter century after its formation, that the NHL finally settled into the six-team league that fans have become familiar with. It would stay that way until 1967, when the league increased to 12 teams to begin what would become known as the expansion era.
Those 25 years were by far the longest stretch of time that the NHL featured the same group of teams, and it was the era that set the stage for everything the league would eventually become. It just wasn’t all that original, no matter what the marketers try to tell us.