It seems like most NHL fans are happy to see a team back in Winnipeg this season. I know I am. Still, it’s always a shame when one town’s gain has to be another’s loss. In an ideal world, teams would just stay in one damn place. You wouldn’t have teams leaving hockey-mad towns to go play in a desert suburb. But that’s the way it is in all pro sports. Just ask football fans in Baltimore and Cleveland.
The NHL, however, likes to talk about “the Original Six” as though they come from some magical era of franchise stability. This gives fans the wrong impression. The Blackhawks, Bruins, Canadiens, Maples Leafs, Rangers, and Red Wings were not the first six franchises in the NHL. The league began in 1917 and had four teams. Only two of those—the Canadiens and Maple Leafs—are still around. The other four “Original Six” didn’t come around until 1927.
The point is, teams always have come and gone in the NHL, and they always will. So today, in honor of the dearly departed Atlanta Thrashers and whoever the next bygone team will be, we present to you a list of 13 NHL Teams That No Longer Exist.
The Montreal Wanderers were one of the NHL’s real original teams. So why have you never heard of them? Because they lasted only 6 games into the inaugural before disbanding due to a lack of players (thanks to World War I) and the fact that their arena burned down. Their all-time record: 1 win, 5 losses.
13. Montreal Wanderers
The Quebec Bulldogs were actually founding members of the NHL, even though they didn’t play in the first two seasons due to economic constraints. They finally did get to play in the 1919-20 NHL season, but they went an utterly depressing 4-20. Due to continued economic difficulties (which had a lot to do with the fact that they played in the smallest city in the fledgling league), they team relocated after its first season.
12. Quebec Bulldogs
This was the first NHL team to come into existence due to relocation. And though they only lasted 5 seasons (1920-1925), at least the Hamilton Tigers did better than the Montreal Wanderers and Quebec Bulldogs. They did not, however, relocate to a new city at the end of their five-year run. The team just ceased to exist, and it’s players were bought by an expansion team (that just so happens to come in at #6 on this list).
11. Hamilton Tigers
The Pittsbugh Pirates were one of two new NHL teams to debut in the 1925-26 season. And yes, they did just take their name from the town’s baseball team. I guess they figured, hey, maybe people will be confused and come to some of our games by mistake. Unfortunately, like the Hamilton Tigers, the Pittsburgh Pirates lasted only five seasons. After 1930, hockey fans in Pittsburgh would have to wait another 37 years before they got another NHL team (the Penguins, who came to be as part of the 1967).
10. Pittsburgh Pirates
After the Pittsburgh Pirates realized they couldn’t succeed in the Steel City simply by piggybacking on an established sports brand, they moved to Philadelphia and became the Philadelphia Quakers. However, they obviously had not learned much from their previous attempt at naming the team, since the Quakers—a religious community best-known for it’s strict code of pacifism—are hardly a good namesake for hockey team. So, alas, the Quakers existed for just one season (1930-31) before the franchise went belly up for good. (In fairness, the Great Depression didn’t help their cause.)
9. Philadelphia Quakers
The Eagles came to be when the first version of the Ottawa Senators—a founding member of the NHL—moved to St. Louis for the 1934-35 season in search of a bigger market. Unfortunately, while they got their bigger market, they also got increased travel costs being in St. Louis, so far away from most of the league’s other teams. So the St. Louis Eagles lasted just one season.
8. St. Louis Eagles
The Maroons came to be in 1924 and lasted until 1938, playing a total of 14 seasons. They were Montreal’s third NHL team, and while they obviously didn’t do as well as the Canadiens, at least they didn’t do as poorly as the Wanderers. Like the previous 3 entries on this list, all of whom kicked the bucket in the 1930s, the Montreal Maroons can thank the Great Depression for their demise.
7. Montreal Maroons
The Brooklyn Americans, not the Rangers, were actually New York’s first NHL team. They started out in 1925 and had a good 17-year run. The team only went under in 1942 as the result of financial struggles and the extreme difficulty of finding able-bodied men to play the game during the height of World War II. After the Americans went under in 1942 only six teams were left in the NHL, and it remained that way for 25 years. This was the era of “the Original Six.”
6. Brooklyn Americans
The California Golden Seals were part of the NHL’s first attempt at expansion in 1967 after the 25-year Original Six golden era. That year, the league doubled in size with the addition of the Golden Seals, LA Kings, Philadelphia Flyers, Minnesota North Stars, Pittsburgh Penguins, and St. Louis Blues. Today, all but one of these franchises still exists. The unlucky ones were the Seals. Based in the San Francisco-Oakland-San Jose metro area, the team played 9 seasons in Northern California before relocating for the 1976-77 season. When they ceased to exist, I don’t think anybody minded not having a team called the Golden Seals.
5. California Golden Seals
The Seals became the Cleveland Barons...for two seasons. Cleveland had long been a pretty good minor league hockey town. So when the NHL decided to relocate there, the team took the name of the popular American Hockey League Team, the Cleveland Barons. Sadly, the NHL version of the squad lost twice as many games as they won, and were forced to “merge” with the North Stars in 1978. (But really, the Barons just got cut from the league and Minnesota got to take their players.)
4. Cleveland Barons
In 1974, the NHL expanded again. This time they added teams in Kansas City and Washington, DC. While the Capitols managed to stick around in DC (to this day) despite their boring name, the Scouts lasted only 2 seasons. Their final all-time record: 27-110-23. Not a good legacy.
3. Kansas City Scouts
And you thought the baseball team was the first franchise to name itself after the city of Denver’s most prominent geographical feature. The Rockies came to be when the Scouts left Kansas City. While they lasted three times longer than their Kansas City predecessors, 6 seasons isn’t exactly the stuff of legends. In 1982 the team packed up and moved to New Jersey, where they became the Devils. This departure paved the way for the demise of the #1 team on this list...
2. Colorado Rockies
The Quebec Nordiques joined the NHL in 1979 as part of the league’s merger with the WHA. However, as with Quebec City’s previous NHL team (#12), the city proved too small to sustain a professional hockey team. So in 1995, the Nordiques ceased to exist when the franchise moved to Denver to become the Avalanche. Today, the lovely people of Quebec City are trying hard to get themselves a new Nordiques. But it doesn’t look like that’s going to happen any time soon.