Thursday, July 10, 2008

Defunct NHL Franchises

The Montreal Wanderers were one of the founding franchises of the NHL. They wore jerseys emblazoned with a huge W and played in an arena built to honor Queen Victoria's Diamond Jubilee in 1896. Interestingly, the Wanderers won the Stanley Cup eight times within five seasons (1906-1910). The team fell apart in 1918 upon the creation of the Montreal Canadiens, who depleted the Wanderers' fan base by declaring themselves the team of French Canada. The Wanderers had to rely on Montreal's English-speaking population, which in those days was hardly large enough to sustain the franchise. The Jubilee Arena still stands in downtown Montreal. It is now a skating rink.

The Toronto Arenas wore blue shirts and were nicknamed "the Blueshirts" by the hockey press. During the team's first season (1917-18), it had no official nickname and was listed on sports pages and in statistic charts as the Toronto Hockey Club, or Toronto HC. Wealthy men fought over ownership of the franchise. The avalanche of legal bills from the dispute forced the team to sell most of its top talent. The Arenas won exactly five games in their second season. In 1919 the team was sold and its name was changed to

The Toronto St. Pats. They won the Stanley Cup once and in the mid 1920s allowed their Arena to be rented by other teams. The Arena was the only place east of Manitoba where one could find artificial ice. They eventually became the Toronto Maple Leafs.

The Ottawa Senators were one of the very greatest teams in the NHL from its beginning to the late 1930s, when the franchise dissolved. Before the NHL era the team was notorious for its exceptionally violent play. In a Stanley Cup game of 1904 they injured seven of the nine players on the opposing team. There was no partition between the ice and the stands at their games. Fans remember being drenched after three periods. During their time in the NHL, they won the Stanley Cup four times. 

The Quebec Bulldogs's history extends back to 1889. They never could find enough money to play in the NHL. They managed to be a founding team of the NHL but never played a single game in it, as their financial troubles forced them to suspend play for two seasons. They moved to Hamilton, Ontario in 1920 and became

The Hamilton Tigers. They wore a black-and-gold tiger's head on their jerseys and never made the playoffs (they were pilloried around the league as a terrible team). One year they did qualify, being first in the league, but the entire team was suspended by the League President when the players went on strike demanding $200 extra pay for their play in the Stanley Cup playoffs. They would never find out if they could have won the Cup. There has never been another NHL franchise in Hamilton.

The Montreal Maroons were founded in an effort to supply the Anglophone citizens of Montreal with an "English" team. A bitter rivalry developed between the Maroons and the Francophone Canadiens. Between their creation in 1924 and their dissolution in 1938 they only missed the playoffs three times and won the Stanley Cup twice. The Maroons were one of the teams that played the longest NHL playoff game of all time: it took them 176 minutes and 3 seconds to lose 1-0 to the Detroit Red Wings.

The New York Americans were the first hockey team--one of the first sports teams--to play in the newly-built Madison Square Garden. After the Hamilton Tigers strike was broken up by League management the franchise was relocated to New York City and re-named the New York Americans, perhaps as an insult to the injured hockey establishment north of the border. From 1925 to 1942 the Americans only made the playoffs three times. They never won the Cup. In 1942 the owner changed the name of the team to the 

The Brooklyn Americans. The owner had every intention of moving them to Brooklyn, but the move never happened, and the Brooklyn Americans continued to play in Manhattan. The franchise folded for good in 1943.

The Pittsburgh Pirates existed from 1925 to 1930. For their first four seasons the Pirates were coached by one Odie Cleghorn, the first coach to change players on the fly and the first to play with three set forward lines. He occasionally played with them as well. In 1928 the team was sold to a boxing promoter and a former lightweight champion. They relocated the franchise to the hated rival city of Philadelphia. 

The Philadelphia Quakers take their name from the rich history of Quakerism in Pennsylvania, from William Penn onwards. They were only the third American-based team in the NHL and they played only one season.

The Detroit Cougars were the first incarnation of the Detroit Red Wings, the most successful expansion team in NHL history. The franchise began life in British Columbia as the Victoria Cougars. The team won the Stanley Cup in 1925 and, hoping to make a splash in the newly-formed NHL, decided to relocate to a city on the Great Lakes. The Cougars weren't a very good team in their first few seasons. The ownership thought that a name change might help. They became

The Detroit Falcons. The name change didn't help. They still struggled. In 1932 they were re-named as the Detroit Red Wings. At some point, Gordie Howe showed up. 

The St. Louis Eagles were the southernmost team in the early days of the NHL. They were the relocated version of the Ottawa Senators. They played one season and folded.

The California Seals/The Oakland Seals/The California Golden Seals were a Bay Area team that never made much of an impression. Between 1967 and 1976 they made the playoffs only twice (in their second and third seasons). They never advanced beyond the first round. Their logo was a yellow seal wielding a hockey stick in a green bay, surrounded on three sides (like the peninsular city of San Francisco?) by the letter C. In 1976 they were relocated to Cleveland.

The Cleveland Barons. Two seasons and death.

The Atlanta Flames was an idea largely mocked by most hockey fans. Ice hockey in such a southerly and warm city was thought to be impossible. In defiance of all geographic reality, the Flames were placed in the Western Conference and their play suffered as a result of the long trips they had to make for away games. They made the playoffs six times out of their eight seasons (1972-1980) and never got past the first round. The franchise probably wouldn't have been relocated in 1980 if the ownership had kept its finances in better order. Ultimately, though, the team went to Calgary to 1980 but kept its nickname, replacing the flames of a burning city with the flames shooting off the top of a spewing Alberta oil rig. 

The Kansas City Scouts joined the NHL in the same 1974 expansion that brought the Washington Capitals into the world. They lasted two seasons before moving to Denver.

The Colorado Rockies lasted until 1982. They were coached by Don Cherry in the 1979-80 season. Cherry had recently been fired by the Boston Bruins and won the Jack Adams Award for his coaching of the Rockies. To draw fans to games billboards all over Denver proclaimed: "Come to the fights and watch a Rockies game break out!" In 1982 they became the New Jersey Devils.

The Quebec Nordiques are a team with a history that should be well-known to any hockey fan. Advertised themselves as the truly Quebecois alternative to the Montreal Canadiens. Peter Stastny. Plunge into despair in the 80s and 90s. The Lindros trade. In 1995 they moved and became the Colorado Avalanche. 

The Winnipeg Jets were an NHL team from 19779 to 1996. They were a fine team with star players (like Bobby Hull), but had to be relocated in the 90's. Winnipeg is a very small market, and the NHL's wide expansion through the USA was too much to keep up with. The team's finances took a massive hit and it was relocated to the Arizona desert. 

The Minnesota North Stars existed from 1967 to 1993. Long colorful history, etc. Eventually merged with the San Jose Sharks and relocated to Dallas. As "Dallas North Stars" makes no sense, the team became simply the Dallas Stars.

The Hartford Whalers wore a massive blue whale tail on their jersey.  They traded Ron Francis to the Pittsburgh Penguins. All whaling vessels setting out from Hartford were sunk by a hurricane in 1996. I know, too much to resist...


Big Shooter said...

Wow. Very impressive. Really.

God Bless those Whalers.

And God Bless our Atlanta Knights. They didn't make the list because they were not "NHL", but they brought this fan to the game!

The Falconer said...

Nicely done, that took some time.

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Anonymous said...

Interesting post.

One correction, the North Stars merged with the Cleveland Barons not the Sharks. Both the North Stars and Barons were owned by the Gunds.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous already beat me and had the Barons merging with the North Stars, but that happened well before the move to Dallas. North Stars fans got suspicious though because the uniforms that they still use today were actually introduced in Minnesota. They were suspicious because the word "North" was missing. They were going to be called the Texas Lone Stars but just left it as Stars.

Although it doesn't seem to make sense to have the Atlanta Flames in the West, the Atlanta Falcons played in the NFC West division and the Atlanta Braves played in the National League West division.

It is exactly 1996 miles from Quebec City to Denver. At last count that franchise had won 2 Stanley Cups with key players acquired in a trade with Philadelphia, Eric Lindros has won none. But then again, if the team was still in Quebec, they don't get to trade for Patrick Roy and they never win a Cup.

Anonymous said...

But is relocation really a term to use for the defunct teams and vice versa or shouldn't that be a separate category.

Mortimer Peacock said...


Thanks for the correction.


I think you're wondering whether "defunct" is an appropriate way to describe franchises like Toronto, which is obviously no longer the St. Pat's but is still going strong as the Leafs, etc...

I wouldn't take the title too literally. In fact, I wouldn't take anything in this post too literally. Maybe I should've titled it "How NHL Teams Perish."