Wednesday, June 1, 2011

NHL Defunct/Relocated Franchises, The Stories

At first I thought there were seven. WRONG. Turns out there are now 19 defunct NHL teams. With the announcement yesterday that the Atlanta Thrashers would be moving to Winnipeg, Manitoba next season, the Thrashers became the first team to move since 1997, when the Hartford Whalers packed their bags and headed south to Carolina to become the Hurricanes.

The first team ever to leave the NHL or relocate was the Montreal Wanderers. They were in existence from 1917 to 1918. The team would have continued operations but failed to field a team in 1918 because of a lack of available players due to World War I.

A year later in 1919, the Quebec Athletic Club (yes that was an NHL team) was sold to a Hamilton based company and the Athletic Club became the Hamilton Tigers. The Tigers lasted five seasons in that Toronto suburb, but went out of business in 1925 as a result of a players strike. 

Five years passed before a team relocated again. In 1930 the Pittsburg Pirates (no relation to the baseball team) headed to the state's other large city and became the Philadelphia Quakers. The Quakers lasted one season in Philly with a dismal record of 4-36-4. The organization went defunct after the ’31 season. 

A team with a little more history than one’s previously mentioned on this list, the original Ottawa Senators headed south to St. Louis and were re-named as the Eagles. The Senators were founded in 1893 as an independent team before joining the AHAC (Amateur Hockey Association of Canada) in 1887. The AHAC was one of six leagues the Senators were a part of before joining the NHL in 1917. One of those six leagues was the NHA or the National Hockey Association, which was the main hockey league in North America before the NHL. The NHL was set up after the NHA tanked. 

The Eagles lasted just one season in the Gateway City and became defunct after financial troubles, due to the Great Depression.  

The Montreal Maroons, perhaps the best of the defunct teams, also went under as a result of the Great Depression.  In 14 seasons in Montreal, the Maroons won two Stanley Cups, beating the Victoria Cougars (the last team ever not from the NHL to win the Stanley Cup). Victoria beat the Montreal Canadians in the Cup finals in 1925, 1926 and the Toronto Maple Leafs in 1935. The Maroons were the last team not from the Original Six to win the Cup until the Philadelphia Flyers hoisted Lord Stanley's Cup in 1974.

The next of the defunct teams was the Brooklyn Americans, also known as the New York Americans.  The team went under for multiple reasons. One reason was for a lack of players due to World War II and, among other things, there was the obvious financial struggle of the Great Depression.

And now we come to maybe the most interesting and one of the strangest teams in NHL history, the California Golden Seals. They were the first team in the NHL to put names on the backs of their uniforms. Also, the team painted their skates white. Oh, did I mention the fact that this was also one of the worst teams in NHL history?  In 9 seasons in Oakland from 1967 to 1976, the Seals had a record of 182–401–115 (.343). Following the completion of the ’76 season, the Seals were sold to Cleveland’s George Gund.

Gund set up Cleveland with their own debacle of a hockey team, the Cleveland Barons. The team lasted just two seasons in the Mistake by the Lake, before merging with the Minnesota North Stars. They are the only team in NHL history to merge operations with another NHL team.

Kansas City also had a two year program from 1974 to 1976. The Kansas City Scouts called Kemper Rink home until the team was shipped off to Colorado due to, you guessed it, financial struggles.  In the Scout's two seasons in KC, the team only managed to win 27 games and finished with maybe the worst two year record in the league’s history at  27–110–23 (.241)

The Scouts became the Colorado Rockies in 1976. The Rockies lasted 6 years in the Mile High City before being sold to John McMullen, a wealthy New Jersey  man who brought the team to Newark in  1983.

The first of two teams to leave Atlanta, was the Flames. They left the Peach State after the team was sold to Nelson Skalbania, who moved the team to Calgary after 8 seasons in Atlanta ('72-'80).

Back to Minnesota and the North Stars. The team lasted a good 26 season in Bloomingburg before they moved down to Dallas in 1993 in search of a better financial situation. Hockey would move back to Minnesota when the NHL expanded in 2000 and The Wild moved into St. Paul.

Nordiques logo
Three years later, the Quebec Nordiques moved to Colorado after 16 years in Quebec City. In 1995 the organization was sold to a Denver based group and the team became the Avalanche. One year after the move, the Aves won The Cup, sweeping the Florida Panthers. 

Winnipeg's first team, the Jets were in the 'Peg for 17 years from 1979 to 1996. The Jets were part of the WHA and when the NHL expanded in 1979 they were instated into the NHL. The organization moved to Phoenix Arizona in '96 in hopes of a better financial situation. That's the funny part because the past two seasons the city and the NHL bailed out the team, paying $25m to keep the team in Glendale for one more season. There were rumors recently that the Coyotes would move back to Winnipeg, but the bailout was paid, so the team stayed put.   

A year later, another former WHA team relocated. The Hartford Whalers departed Connecticut in 1997 to Carolina and became the Hurricanes. The 'Canes struggled their first few years but in 2006 the team won the Stanley Cup and the team has thrived ever since.  

Philips Arena,  home to the Thrashers
usually looked like this during
Atlanta games. It kind of looks like
the NCAA Regionals,
if you look closely.
Finally, Yesterday it was announced that the Atlanta Thrashers would be relocating to Winnipeg. The Thrashers struggled to get more fans in the seats than when BU sells out Agganis (about 6,200). As you can see, the Thrashers had some serious financial troubles. There is no official word on what the name on the team will be but I have some thoughts. The Manitoba Moose would work for me.

SOURCES: Wikipedia

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