Contrary to what some people think, NHL wasn’t the first hockey league in the US. Instead, there were several other leagues before, and NHL was preceded by NHA (National Hockey Association). NHA was a professional hockey league having the best teams from all over America.
Among the professional squad, three amateur teams, i.e., Montreal Wanderers, Montreal Canadiens, and Ottawa Senators, had some clashes with Toronto’s franchise owner David Livingston. Thus, these three teams decided to quit the NHA temporarily. They chose not to remain a part of the league till David Livingston left the franchise.
These three teams created a hockey league on their own and named it NHL (National Hockey League) of their own. Initially, the formation of the NHL was short-term, but later they decided to make it permanent and even introduced their team for Toronto, i.e., Toronto Arenas. In short, if you want to know what were the first 4 NHL teams, then check out the following points.
- Montreal Canadiens (1917 to Present)
- Montreal Wanderers (1917 to 1918)
- Ottawa Senators (1917 to 1934)
- Toronto Arenas (1917 to 1919)
Out of the four founders of the NHL association, Montreal Canadiens is the single one that is still present and fully functional in its original form in the NHL. Below a detailed guide on each of these teams is present that can help you study their history and achievements.
1. Montreal Canadiens (1917 to Present)
The Montreal Canadiens is the oldest and probably the most successful team in the NHL. In fact, it would be viable to declare that Montreal Canadiens have proved to be one of the most acclaimed and successful sports franchises of all time. The entire credit of its success owes to its potent team and a century-long dedication to the league.
Montreal Canadiens bagged their first Stanley Cup in 1916, and their last cup was won in 1993. Though it’s almost two decades since the Montreal Canadiens haven’t made any notable achievements, they still have won the most Stanley Cups in the history of the NHL, i.e., 23.
Montreal Canadiens was founded in 1909 and were originally a part of NHA. But due to the owner’s disagreements with David Livingman, they decided to opt out of the NHA and joined NHL. Montreal proved to be the strongest team in the NHL from the start.
They even made it to the finals of the first NHL season but unfortunately lost the cup to Toronto Arenas. Due to the extreme potential and stability of the team, Montreal Canadiens have survived for so long in a competitive league like NHL.
Related Post: Where did the name hockey come from?
2. Montreal Wanderers (1917 to 1918)
People studying the original 6 NHL teams may get confused about the difference between Montreal Wanderers and Montreal Canadiens. If you, too, are scratching your head while pointing out the difference between the two teams, you should know that the two teams vary on an ethnic basis.
Montreal Canadiens represented the French-speaking region of the state of Montreal. Whereas Montreal Wanderers belonged to the English-speaking part. The team Wanderers was founded way back in 1903- much before Montreal Canadiens and played several big and small tournaments in the NHA.
Despite such long participation in the NHA, Montreal Wanderers couldn’t attain professional status in the league. Soon, the owner of this team also developed differences from Toronto’s David Livingston. Thus, this team also decided to quit the NHA along with the Montreal Canadiens and became one of the originators of the National Hockey League (NHL).
The performance of the Montreal Wanderers was pretty impressive in NHA as they won 4 Stanley Cups during that era, but in NHL, they couldn’t perform decently and lost two games consecutively. Montreal Wanderers thrived in the league for a few months, but unfortunately, its arena ‘Westmount’ burnt down in 1918.
Following this tragedy, the owner of the Wanderers team decided to finish off their team and traded off its players to the other three teams in the NHL. Though Montreal Wanderers couldn’t mark an exceptional performance in the NHL, it is still remembered as one of the originators of the league.
3. Ottawa Senators (1917 to 1934)
Some people confuse the NHL’s originator Ottawa Senator with the 1992-founded Ottawa Senator. But in actuality, both teams are altogether different from each other and have no connection with each other.
Ottawa Senators is the oldest discoverer of the National Hockey League (NHL) on this list. The team was founded in the 19th century in 1883 and was called Ottawa Hockey Club. They changed their name to Ottawa Senators in 1908, after its team members were given the title “the Silver Seven” by their fans.
After Montreal Canadiens, Ottawa Senators can be recalled as one of the NHL’s most successful founders. The team won 9 Stanley Cups before NHL’s formation and 4 Cups in the NHL sessions. At the start, the performance of the Ottawa Senators wasn’t that impressive in the NHL, but soon, the team picked up its pace and bagged in 3 out of 4 Stanley Cups.
Though Ottawa Senators’ performance was pretty decent in the NHL, they were not financially stable. Their team had low funds and could not compete with the expanding standards of the NHL association. In 1919, multiple other teams joined the NHL, and due to the lack of economic resources, Ottawa Senators had to trade off their best players, including King Clancy.
Then in 1931, they didn’t have enough funds and had to skip the season following this purpose. Finally, in 1934, the owners of the Ottawa Senators lost hope for the team. They dissolved the team and traded off the remaining players to St. Louis.
Related Post: Who Invented Ice Hockey?
4. Toronto Arenas (1917 to 1919)
Toronto Arenas was the last team to join the NHL. The team had the same seven players as that the Toronto club, but they didn’t have David Livingston this time. The team was, this time, owned by the Toronto Arena Company.
Though the team’s official name was Arenas, they were often referred to as ‘Blue Shirts’ by their fans. In NHA, the Toronto Arenas were always referred to as amateurs instead of professionals. But due to the political tactics of David Livingston, the team remained stable in the NHA.
However, when the team moved to the NHL, it didn’t have the potential support it once had. They were playing pretty average, but soon, David Livingston started playing political tactics to degrade the team.
Fortunately, the team remained stable through the times of the testament and gradually improved their performance in the NHL. They won the inaugural championship against the Montreal Canadiens and even bagged their first cup out of 13 Stanley Cups.
But due to the constant threats from David Livingston, the team had to make some drastic changes. The ownership of the Toronto Arenas team was transferred to Conne Smythe. He altered several aspects of the team and even renamed it Toronto St. Patrick in 1919.
Conclusion: What were the First 4 NHL Teams?
Now that you have learned that instead of the original 6 NHL teams, there were four founding fathers, you will be able to understand the history of the National Hockey League better. However, during the time of the NHL’s formation, it was not that popular.
NHL attained worldwide recognition when there were six teams in the league. That is why many people mistook comprehending that NHL was founded by six and not four teams.
The Montreal Wanderers and Ottawa Senators had left the NHL association at that time. While the Toronto Arena had got renamed twice. The NHL rose to prominence when the following teams were associated with the league.
- Montreal Canadiens
- New York Rangers
- Chicago Blackhawks
- Toronto Maple Leafs
- Detriot Red Wings
- Boston Bruins
NHL again had an expansion by another six teams in 1967. Since then, the NHL association has continued to grow more than ever. There are currently 32 teams in the NHL selected among two conferences and four divisions. Moreover, these 32 teams collectively have over 713 players in total. In fact, within a century National Hockey League has become one of the most significant hockey associations globally.
Since the formation of the NHL, ice hockey rules and regulations have changed multiple times. For instance, now a team of 20 roster makes a hockey team instead of 7. But the legacy that the four founding fathers of the NHL will remain glorious and crucial to NHL history.