NHL Teams

NHL Expansion History For These 26 Teams

By Kapil Sapkota / 11 December 2023 03:51 AM

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In the inaugural season of the NHL in 1917-18, the league comprised only 4 teams. Between 1942 and 1967, the league had six clubs, referred to as the "Original Six."

The Boston Bruins, Chicago Black Hawks, Detroit Red Wings, Montreal Canadiens, New York Rangers, and Toronto Maple Leafs are the Original Six members.

In 1967, the first NHL Expansion was conducted, and six more teams were introduced in the league, including the Minnesota North Stars, Philadelphia Flyers, and the defunct California Seals.

The NHL added two more members to the family in 1970. The Buffalo Sabres and the Vancouver Canucks began their NHL journey in the 1970-71 season.

With continued league expansion over the years, the NHL is now a family of 32 members. The Seattle Kraken is the latest addition to the league, which became official in 2021.

1. Los Angeles Kings (1967)

The Kings were founded as an expansion franchise after the businessman Jack Kent Cooke acquired the right to an NHL franchise for Los Angeles in February 1966.

Cooke paid $2 million to the NHL to form the team as other expansion franchises of that year. The name of the club was decided following a fan contest.

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The team's first contest occurred on 14 October 1967 over the fellow expansion, the Philadelphia Flyers, at the Long Beach Arena. Los Angeles won that historic match 4-2 against the Flyers.

After playing its first two games at the Long Beach, the Kings had 14 matches at the Los Angeles Memorial Sports Arena before moving to the Forum in California in December 1967.

2. Dallas Stars (1967)

Another franchise to emerge in 1967 was founded as the Minnesota North Stars and was renamed in 1993 after it relocated to Dallas.

In response to the NHL's announcement to expand the league to twelve teams for the 1967-68 season, a group of 9 led by Walter Bush and Robert Ridder was formed to establish a team in the Twin Cities area of Minnesota.

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Minnesota was awarded an expansion franchise in February 1966. The team's name "North Stars" was decided after a public contest in May 1966. The Met Center in Bloomington served as the home of the club.

The North Stars competed in its first-ever game on October 11, 1967, on the road against the fellow expansion the St. Louis Blues. The match ended in a 2-2 tie.

Minnesota was merged with the Cleveland Barons before the 1978-79 season due to the financial crisis.

3. Philadelphia Flyers (1967)

The Flyers evolved as a 1967 expansion franchise with a collective effort of Ed Snider, Bill Putnam, Jerry Wolman, and others.

Like other teams, Philadelphia also conducted a fan contest in 1966 to name the franchise. The new teams including the Flyers suffered a lack of skilled players as the Original Six teams kept all major talents following the restrictive rules.

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Keith Allen became the first head coach of the club and Lou Angotti was named the first team captain. The Philadelphia Flyers debuted in the NHL on 11 October 1967 in a 5-1 loss against the California Seals on the road.

Spectrum Arena was home to Philadelphia from 1967 through 1996.

4. Pittsburgh Penguins (1967)

Before the Pens, Pittsburgh made its presence in the NHL with the Pittsburgh Pirates from 1925 to 1930.

In 1965, Jack McGregor, a state senator from Pennsylvania started lobbying the community leaders and campaign contributors for bringing back an NHL franchise to Pittsburgh.

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Consequently, the Penguins were founded as an expansion franchise in 1967. A total of 26,000 fans voted for the naming of the team.

Pittsburgh played its home game at the Civic Arena, whose capacity was increased from 10,732 to 12,500 to meet the NHL requirement.

George Sullivan coached the team and Ab McDonald was the captain for the inaugural season. The Penguins appeared in their first NHL match on October 11, 1967, at Civic Arena hosting the Montreal Canadiens. The Canadiens had a 2-1 victory over the Pens.

5. St. Louis Blues (1967)

St. Loius was the last expansion team of 1967 to get an entry into the league. Insurance tycoon Sid Salomon Jr., his son Sid Salomon III, and Robert L. Wolfson were the team's first owners.

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The club was named after the W. C. Handy song Saint Louis Blues. Lynn Patrick became the first head coach and the general manager of the team. St. Louis Arena served as the home to the Blues.

On 11 October 1967, the team played its first match against the Minnesota North Stars. The Blues advanced to the 1968 Stanley Cup finals, however, they were swept by the Montreal Canadiens.

For the next two seasons, the Blues franchise dominated the Western Division and advanced to the Stanley Cup finals. However, they couldn't win the cup on both occasions.

6. Buffalo Sabres (1970)

In 1970, Sabres joined the league along with another franchise the Vancouver Canucks. Both teams were initially owned by Seymour H. Knox III, Northrup Knox, and Robert O. Swados.

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Buffalo Memorial Auditorium served as the home of the team. The Sabres debuted in the NHL 1970-71 season. Punch Imlach took the position of head coach and general manager, while Floyd Smith captained the team.

With their 1970 NHL Amateur Draft first pick Gilbert Perreault on the team, Buffalo went a 24-39-15 record in their first season and were fifth in the Eastern Division.

Perreault was awarded the Calder Memorial Trophy as the Rookie of the Year after he led the rookies with 38 goals and 34 assists.

7. Vancouver Canucks (1970)

A member of the Western Conference of the Pacific Division, the Vancouver Canucks were established as an NHL team along with the Buffalo Sabres.

The Minnesota entrepreneur Thomas Scallen and his group paid $6 million to the NHL for the license of the Vancouver expansion. The Canucks were originally a WHL team and were sold to the Scallen's group.

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In their inaugural season, Hal Laycoe coached the Nucks and Ray Cullen was named the team captain. Home games of the Canucks franchise were played at Pacific Coliseum, which remained the home of the club until 1995.

The Nucks played their first game on 9 October 1970, a 3-1 loss against the Los Angeles Kings. Vancouver concluded their first season with a 24-46-8 record finishing 6th in the Eastern Division.

8. New York Islanders (1972)

Despite the existence of an "Original Six" member, the New York Rangers in the city, the Islanders were founded as a Long Island-based franchise in 1972.

The owner of the American Basketball Association's New York Nets and clothing manufacturer, Ray Boe paid $6 million as a franchise fee to the NHL and $5 million to the Rangers as a territorial fee.

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The team's name was unveiled at a press conference in February 1972. 

Earl Ingarfield was selected as a coach for the team and was later replaced by Phil Goyette. Ed Westfall captained the Islanders in the inaugural season.

On 7 October 1972, the Islanders played their first NHL match over the Atlanta Flames at Nassau Coliseum with a 3-2 loss. The franchise compiled a poor 12-60-6 stats to finish last in the Eastern Division.

9. Calgary Flames (1972)

Founded as the Atlanta Flames in 1972, the team was renamed the Calgary Flames after moving to Calgary in 1980.

The Flames were born due to the NHL's first pre-emptive strike against the WHA. 

When the NHL awarded a franchise to Long Island, it also granted a team to the Atlanta-based group led by Tom Cousins to balance the schedule.

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Atlanta named Cliff Fletcher the first general manager and Bernie Geoffrion was selected as the inaugural head coach of the club. Keith McCreary became the captain of the team. Home games were played at Omni Coliseum.

The Flames' first match was scheduled against another franchise of the year, the New York Islanders. Atlanta won the debut match 3-2 over the Isles.

At the end of the season, the Flames became 7th in the Western Division with a  25-38-15 record.

10. Washington Capitals (1974)

In 1974, the NHL added two new franchises to the league: the Washington Capitals and the Kansas City Scouts.

Washington received an expansion franchise in June 1972. The Capitals joined the league before the 1974-75 season and were originally owned by Abe Pollin.

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For their first season, Jim Anderson started as the head coach, and Milt Schmidt was appointed as a GM. Schmidt later took over as a coach as well. Doug Mohns was awarded the captaincy of the club.

The team lost its first NHL match versus the New York Rangers 3-6 on October 9, 1974. The Capitals' inaugural season was pathetic, even by expansion standards. The team went 8-67-5 making the worst record in NHL history.

11. New Jersey Devils (1974)

Instituted along with the Capitals franchise in 1974 as the Kansas City Scouts, the team was renamed the Colorado Rockies in 1976 and the New Jersey Devils in 1982.

Edwin G. Thompson and his group were the initial owners of the Scouts.

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Sid Abel was appointed as the first general manager of Kansas and Bep Guidolin was named the head coach of the club. Simon Nolet took the captaincy of the team before starting the season.

Kemper Arena was selected as home to the Scouts franchise.

Kansas played its first NHL match on 9 October 1974 against the Toronto Maple Leafs with a 2-6 loss. The team saw its first victory 5-4 on November 3 against its fellow expansion franchise the Washington Capitals.

12. Edmonton Oilers (1979)

A member of the Pacific Division of the Western Conference, the Edmonton Oilers have been competing in the NHL since the 1979-80 season.

The Oilers were initially a World Hockey Association (WHA) team and joined the NHL following a merger agreement between these two leagues in 1979.

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In their first season in the NHL, Larry Gordon had been serving the Oilers organization as a general manager, and the veteran Glen Sather was the coaching boss. Ron Chipperfield was made the team captain.

Having Wayne Gretzky on the team, the Oilers kicked off the season on October 10 with a 2-4 loss over the Chicago Black Hawks. Their first victory 3-6 came on 19 October over the Quebec Nordiques.

Edmonton also secured a berth in the playoffs, however, it was swept by the Philadelphia Flyers in 3 games.

13. Carolina Hurricanes (1979)

The history of the Hurricanes dates back to 1971 when it was founded as New England Whalers. The team competed in the WHA until 1979 and joined the NHL as the Hartford Whalers.

In 1997, the team relocated to North Carolina and became the Carolina Hurricanes.

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During its NHL inaugural season, the team played its first 22 home games at Springfield Civic Center. Jack Kelley was in the capacity of general manager and Don Blackburn coached the club.

The team's first-ever NHL match came on 11 October 1979 over the Minnesota North Stars losing 4-1 at their home. The Whalers concluded the season with a 27-34-19 record finishing fourth in the Norris Division.

14. Colorado Avalanche (1979)

The Avalanche was founded in 1972 as the Quebec Nordiques and competed in the WHA before the league merged into the NHL in 1979. Quebec was placed in the Adams Division of the Wales Conference.

Though the team had a great performance in the WHA the previous year, the Nordiques somehow failed to maintain the legacy in the NHL in their early days.

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Quebec went 25-44-11 in their first NHL season in 1979-80 and finished last in the Adams Division. Their forward Real Cloutier was a notable performer who scored 89 points in the season.

Cloutier also became the second NHLer to score a hat-trick in his first game. Jacques Demers coached the Nordiques and the club played its home matches at Colisee de Quebec.

When the team was purchased by COSMAT Entertainment Group and relocated to Denver in 1995, it was renamed the Colorado Avalanche.

15. Arizona Coyotes (1979)

The Arizona Coyotes were founded as the Winnipeg Jets in December 1971 as a WHA franchise. Following the merger of the WHA and NHL, the Jets also became an NHL expansion team in 1979.

As a WHA team, Winnipeg was among the successful clubs winning the Avco World Trophy as the league champion three times.

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However, the team never succeeded in seeing the same success in the NHL. In its first season in 1979-80 in the league, the Jets earned a 20-49-11 record and finished fifth in the Smythe Division and last in the league.

The Jets played their home games at Winnipeg Arena. Tom McVie and Bill Sutherland coached Winnipeg for the first NHL season.

In 1996, the team moved to Phoenix, Arizona, and became the Phoenix Coyotes. The team was last renamed in 2014.

16. San Jose Sharks (1991)

A member of the Pacific Division of the Western Conference, the Sharks were founded in 1991. San Jose debuted in the league in the 1991-92 season with captain Doug Wilson.

Before the Sharks, California Golden Seals were the San Francisco Bay Area-based NHL team, which later relocated to Cleveland in 1976.

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The Sharks played at the Cow Palace for their first two seasons. In their inaugural season, the new franchise compiled a 17-58-5 record coaching under George Kingston.

Captained by Logan Couture, the Sharks finished 6th in the Smythe Division of the Campbell Conference.

In the next season, they were lost in 71 games which is an NHL record. The team also saw a  17-game losing streak and won just 11 games. Kingston was fired following the 1992-93 season.

17. Ottawa Senators (1992)

The original Ottawa Senators were founded in 1883 and had a prestigious history. Competed in the NHL from 1917 through 1934, the Senators won 11 Stanley Cups.

The current version of the Ottawa Senators was founded in 1992 after the NHL awarded a new expansion franchise in Ottawa for a $50 million expansion fee. Bruce Firestone was the owner of the franchise.

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With all the new management and a team, the Senators started playing in the league in the 1992-93 season. At the end of the regular season, the franchise settled at 10-70-4 finishing last in the Adams Division.

In 1993, the ownership of Ottawa went to Rod Bryden due to the arena development process and its financing. Eugene Melnyk became the new owner of the team in 2003 after the franchise filed for bankruptcy.

18. Tampa Bay Lightning (1992)

Another NHL member formed in 1992 along with the Senators was the Tampa Bay Lightning. Phil Esposito and his brother Tony were the owners of the Lightning franchise.

Furthermore, Phil assigned himself the president and the GM of the team, while Tony was in the chief scout capacity.

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A two-time Stanley Cup champion, Terry Crisp was named the head coach of the team. Home games of the franchise were played at Expo Hall.

Tampa Bay played its first season without a captain. Yet, 3 players including Brian Bradley were selected as alternate captains. Earning a 23-54-7 stat, the Lightning finished 6th in the Norris Division. Bradley led the team with 42 goals and 86 points.

The franchise won its first Stanley Cup in 2004 and back-to-back in 2020 and 2021.

19. Florida Panthers (1993)

Two new teams, the Florida Panthers and Mighty Ducks of Anaheim were introduced in the NHL 1993 Expansion Draft. The Panthers were owned by Blockbuster Video owner, Wayne Huizenga.

Huizenga was awarded the expansion franchise after paying a $50 million fee to the NHL. Miami Arena served as the home of the Panthers.

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The team's name was unveiled in April 1993. Bobby Clarke was appointed as the first GM of the franchise and Roger Neilson became the first head coach of the club.

Florida recorded a 33-34-17 stat and stood 5th in the Atlantic Division at the conclusion of its first NHL regular season. Coincidently, the team had an equal 233 goals for and against throughout the season.

The Panthers earned their first Presidents' Trophy in the 2021-22 season and they are yet to win the Stanley Cup.

20. Anaheim Ducks (1993)

The fellow expansion of the Panthers, Anaheim Ducks was founded as the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim in 1993. Walt Disney Company was the original owner of the Ducks.

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The franchise's name was taken after the 1992 Disney movie The Mighty Ducks. Bob Clarke was hired as the general manager and Roger Neilson became the inaugural head coach of the team.

In their first season in 1993-94, the Ducks played under their captain Brian Skrudland. Miami Arena was selected as the home of Anaheim.

Earning an average 33-34-17 record and standing 5th in the Atlantic Division, the Ducks concluded their earliest season. The team was renamed the Anaheim Ducks in 2006 and it won the Stanley Cup the next year.

21. Nashville Predators (1998)

The Nashville Predators were the only expansion franchise to be added to the NHL in 1998. Craig Leipold was the initial owner of the franchise, he currently owns the Minnesota Wild.

David Poile became the first general manager of the Predators' history, while Barry Trotz was the coaching head of the club. The team used Nashville Arena as its home.

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The Preds played its first season under captain Tom Fitzgerald. Earning a poor 28-47-7 record, the franchise was ranked last in the Central Division after the season ended.

The only team who had a worse record than Nashville in the Western Conference was the Vancouver Canucks.

Nashville has not captured any Stanley Cups to date. However, they had earned the Presidents' Trophy in the 2017-18 season.

22. Winnipeg Jets (1999)

The Winnipeg Jets that have been competing in the NHL was founded as Atlanta Thrashers in 1999. The original Winnipeg Jets were founded in 1972, and have now become the Arizona Coyotes.

Atlanta was placed in the Southeast Division of the Eastern Conference. Don Waddell was named the first GM of the Thrashers and Curt Fraser coached the team in the team's earliest season in 1999-00 season.

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Patrik Stefan was drafted by the Thrashers with the first overall selection in the 1999 Entry Draft. Atlanta's first game was set against the New Jersey Devils and the match ended up with a 1-4 loss for the Thrashers.

The franchise compiled a 14-57-7-4 record at the end of the regular season and was ranked last in the conference.

In May 2011, True North Sports & Entertainment purchased the Thrashers and relocated the club to Winnipeg. It was then renamed the Winnipeg Jets.

23. Columbus Blue Jackets (2000)

In 2000, the NHL welcomed two more members, the Columbus Blue Jackets and Minnesota Wild in the league. The Expansion Draft took place in Calgary, Alberta.

Doug MacLean was handed over the duties of general manager and Dave King was named the first head coach of the Blue Jackets. The franchise's first team captain was Lyle Odelein. 

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Nationwide Arena has been serving as the home to the Blue Jackets since the inception of the club.

The very first NHL season of the Columbus franchise was completed accumulating a 28-39-9-6 record. The team finished last in the Central Division and 13th in the Western Conference.

Columbus Blue Jackets secured the first Stanley Cup playoff berth in the 2008-09 season. However, the Jackets are yet to win a Stanley Cup, as well as the Presidents' Trophy.

24. Minnesota Wild (2000)

Before the Wild was added as a new franchise in the NHL in 2000, the Minnesota North Stars used to represent Minnesota in the league.

The North Stars moved to Dallas and became the Dallas Stars in 1993.

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Following the departure of the North Stars, the NHL announced that Minnesota had been awarded an expansion franchise in 1997. Bob Naegele, Jr. had the majority of the ownership of the new franchise.

The Wild hired Doug Risebrough as the first general manager of the organization and Jacques Lemaire as the head coach. The club's captaincy was decided in a rotational manner.

Xcel Energy Center has been the home of the Wild franchise since the beginning of the team.

In the Wild's first season in the league, the team earned a 25-39-13-5 record and the team stood last in the Northwest Division.

25. Vegas Golden Knights (2017)

The 2023 Stanley Cup champion, the Vegas Golden Knights is the second youngest member of the league. Became an official member of the NHL in 2017, the organization was formed and named in 2016.

The Golden Knights was the first major professional sports franchise based in Las Vegas. The expansion fee for the Knights was $500 million.

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George McPhee joined Vegas as the first general manager in the Vegas franchise history. McPhee previously worked for the Washington Capitals in the same capacity.

Gerard Gallant was named the first head coach of the team.  The home games of the franchise have been played at T-Mobile Arena.

With an excellent 51-24-7 record, the Knights completed their inaugural 2017-18 season becoming the Pacific Division champions. They finished third in the Western Conference.

26. Seattle Kraken (2021)

The Kraken is the latest NHL franchise which was founded in 2021. Seattle was approved for an expansion team in December 2018 and the team's name, colors, branding, and jersey were announced.

Seattle's NHL franchise is placed in the Pacific Division of the Western Conference. The team plays its home games at Climate Pledge Arena.

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Ron Francis has been taking the position of the youngest NHL member and Dave Hakstol was named the head coach of the team. Likewise, Mark Giordano became the inaugural captain of Seattle.

The Kraken's NHL journey began with a 3-4 loss game versus the Vegas Golden Knights on October 12, 2021. Seattle earned 27-49-6 stats after ending the regular season. The team stood last in the Pacific.

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