Another hard-hitting season of ice hockey is upon us, as the National Hockey League gets underway with 30 teams eyeing a post-season run in the playoffs. Each of the 30 major league hockey teams is hoping to lift the Stanley Cup in June, but only the very best will outstay the competition during a gruelling 82-game regular season in order to qualify.
The league consists of a total of 30 teams split into four regional divisions. Of all the teams, half a dozen of them are known as the Original Six – a group of hockey organisations which go back to the earliest days of the league, and even precede it. Here’s a quick guide to who they are and where you can see them in action.
Founded in 1909 before the NHL even existed, the Montreal Canadiens are the oldest team of the Original Six by eight years. As the spelling of their name suggests, the side’s strong French-Canadian roots have stayed with them – a recent managerial appointment even found himself in trouble with Les Habitants because he only spoke English. Montreal itself has a great deal for visitors to enjoy off the ice, ranging from tours round the old city to a magnificent 185-acre botanical garden.
Toronto Maple Leafs
When they first joined the NHL, the Toronto team had no nickname and it wasn’t until the 1926-7 season that they officially became the Maple Leafs; a name chosen to represent courage in adversity, as it was the symbol worn by Canadian soldiers in the First World War. No visit to the city would be complete without a trip up to the viewing platform of the Toronto Tower, a dizzying 1122 feet above ground level.
Established back in 1924, the Boston Bruins is the oldest American team in the NHL. The name Bruin is an old English word for a brown bear, and was chosen by the team’s original owner Charles Adams to represent the qualities of speed, power and cunning. The team’s colours of brown and yellow also matched those of Adams’ chain of grocery store branding. Along with the six-time Stanley Cup winners, Boston’s also home to the famous Harvard University, which hosts student-led tours of the historic campus every Saturday morning.
The Blackhawks came into existence in 1926 when their first owner, Major Frederic McLaughlin, took over the Portland Rosebuds. He was quick to relocate the team to Chicago and introduce the new name in honour of a Sauk Indian chief who had come to the aid of the British forces in The War of 1812. As the third largest city in the States, you’ll never be short of things to do in Chicago including visiting the famous Lincoln Park Zoo.
Detroit Red Wings
When the team was first admitted to the league in Autumn 1926 the Red Wings were called the Cougars and played in Ontario. It wasn’t until 1932 that they were renamed as the Red Wings. In a city that’s just as famous for the Motown label as it is for car making, the old recording studio is now a must-see attraction for any music fan visiting Detroit.
New York Rangers
One of three New York state teams in the NHL, the Rangers play their home games in the historic surroundings of Madison Square Garden. Established in 1926, the Rangers were the first ever winners of the league’s Stanley Cup and have gone on to win it three more times since. When you’re in New York there’s certainly a great deal more to be discovered as well as the Rangers, and hiring a car is definitely the best way to see as much as possible.
So, as it approaches its centenary season in 2017, the success of the NHL is testament to the league’s enduring appeal to fans. It also underlines the continuing popularity of not just the Original Six but the other 24 teams that make the NHL such an exciting spectacle – and one which shouldn’t be missed.