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Monday February 22, 2010 6:36 pm

The history of the NHL: The Founding Era




Posted by Adrien Griffin Categories: Championship, Editorial, NHL,

Clint BenedictWhile not as extensive as baseball or football, the history of the National Hockey League is a long and interesting one. Like most upstart leagues of the era, the early days of the NHL were chaotic and filled with uncertainty. Over a dozen teams were part of the league in some form during its first 10 years, but only six of them managed to survive what is now known as the first era of the NHL; it’s Founding Era.

The League was officially formed in 1917 mostly from teams that had operated in the suspended National Hockey Association. The Toronto Arenas, who would eventually become the Maple Leafs, was formed as well. The league had strong competition from the Pacific Coast Hockey Association and Western Canada Hockey League, competing for players as well as the Stanley Cup, but after those two leagues merged in 1924, they folded in 1926 and the NHL became the top league in North America.

Reaping the benefits of new talent available, the NHL increased to 10 teams, including Chicago, Detroit, and the New York Rangers. A number of innovations were also made to the game, including numbers on the jerseys, removing the “rover” position, and separating the teams into Canadian and American divisions, despite having six American and four Canadian teams (the New York Americans, of all teams, were put in the Canadian division). At this time, the NHL became the only league to compete for the Stanley Cup.

The 1930s was when the league really found its identity. Tweaks to the rules and equipment continued and the weaker teams folded, but by 1942, only the “Original Six” teams and the New York Americans existed. The NHL was ready to move forward with stability. The Americans ceased operations in 1942 due to the war and were ready to rejoin by 1946, but the NHL disallowed the change, and had ushered in the era of the Original Six.

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