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The National Hockey League (NHL) undertook a major expansion for the 1967–68 season, adding six new franchises to double the size of the league. This marked the first change in the composition of the league since 1942, when the Brooklyn Americans folded. It ended the era of the Original Six.

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For many years after the shakeout caused by the Depression and World War II, the NHL owners staunchly resisted applications to expand beyond the so-called "Original Six" clubs (Boston, Montreal, Toronto, New York, Detroit and Chicago).[1][2] Groups representing Philadelphia (which had secured rights to the dormant Montreal Maroons franchise), Los Angeles and the AHL Cleveland Barons were each in turn given conflicting requirements that seemed to contemporary observers designed to disqualify the bids, and it was widely understood that the existing NHL owners wanted no encroachments upon their profits.[2]

The NHL had been an early leader in television broadcasting, both in Canada and the U.S.[3] However, by 1960 its TV contracts had expired, and the league had none until 1963.[1] The owners saw that the televising of other sports had enhanced the images of those leagues' players, and feared that this would provide leverage at salary time. Already, players were starting to get legal help in negotiating contracts.[3] As well, the league did not want to change game start times to suit the networks.[1] In 1965, the NHL was told that it would not receive a U.S. television contract without expansion, and that the networks were considering televising games from the Western Hockey League, an ostensibly minor league that had by that time expanded into several large West Coast markets and accumulated strong rosters of players excluded from the static NHL lineups of the era.[4]

Fears of the WHL becoming a rival major league and the desire for a lucrative TV contract in the U.S., much like the ones Major League Baseball and the National Football League had secured, wore down the opposition; moreover, as more conservative owners retired, a younger guard more receptive to expansion, such as Stafford Smythe in Toronto, David Molson in Montreal, and William M. Jennings in New York, took power.[1]

Expansion teams

In 1963, Rangers governor William Jennings introduced to his peers the idea of expanding the league to the American West Coast by adding two new teams for the 1964–65 season. His argument was based around concerns that the Western Hockey League intended to operate as a major league in the near future. He also hoped that teams on the west coast would make the league truly national, and improve the chances of returning to television in the United States as the NHL had lost its deal with CBS. While the governors did not agree to the proposal, the topic of expansion came up every time the owners met from then on out.

The expansion process formally began in March 1965, when NHL President Clarence Campbell announced that the league proposed to expand its operations through the formation of a second six-team division. San Francisco–Oakland and Vancouver were declared "acceptable cities" with Los Angeles and St. Louis as potential sites. In February 1966, the NHL Board of Governors considered applications from 14 different ownership groups, including five from Los Angeles, two from Pittsburgh, and one each from Minneapolis – Saint Paul, Philadelphia, San Francisco-Oakland, Baltimore, Buffalo and Vancouver. Cleveland and Louisville had also expressed previous interest but were not represented.[5]

Six franchises were ultimately added. Four still play in their original cities, one has relocated and one ceased operations.

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Opposition

Many were upset over the expansion. Canadian fans were irate that no Canadian teams were added, particularly since Vancouver had been considered a lock.[1] Politics also took a hand in the selections; the Vancouver bid was reportedly very weak, but Montreal and Toronto were not interested in sharing CBC TV revenues with another Canadian club, and the powerful Chicago owner's support was reputedly contingent on the creation of a St. Louis team – though no formal bid had actually been received from St. Louis – to purchase the decrepit St. Louis Arena, which the Black Hawks ownership then also owned.[1][2]

Furthermore, many traditionalists did not like the idea of expansion, claiming it would dilute the talent in the league.[5] Even many of the proponents of expansion were worried at the idea of immediately doubling the NHL's size, instead of easing teams in gradually, as had Major League Baseball.[6]

Most experts agreed that the new owners paid a heavy price to join the league: the expansion fee was $2 million U. S. Players taken in the very strict expansion draft came at a cost of a hefty $50,000. Thus, most expansion teams had no hope of competing successfully with the established teams in the near future.[1]

One concession from the league, however, was that the new teams were all placed in the newly-formed West Division (somewhat of a misnomer since the two Pennsylvania clubs were clearly not in the Western United States), meaning four expansion teams would make the playoffs and an expansion team was guaranteed a slot in the Stanley Cup finals. This format was criticized by some fans who felt the first few expansion-era Stanley Cup finals were anti-climatic, pitting the league's best team against an opponent that clearly was not the second-best. An alternative proposal to put Detroit and Chicago in the West with Pittsburgh and Philadelphia going to the East was rejected by the league - apparently the owners believed the new clubs needed the playoff revenue to be financially stable, also the existing owners were not yet ready to tamper with long-standing and lucrative Original Six rivalries.

Changes

The new teams offered a big change to the league. After seeing virtually the same red/blue/black uniforms for over twenty years, purple, green, sky blue, and orange were introduced.[5]

Success of the expansion teams

All the expansion teams were placed in the same division in 1967–68, so their success was largely gauged relative to each other. The Philadelphia Flyers won this division in the first season for the expansion teams, and quickly built a strong club that would go on to win the Stanley Cup in 1974 and 1975. The St. Louis Blues also immediately made an impact, with three finals appearances in the first three years, but have never since reached the Stanley Cup finals. The Pittsburgh Penguins were largely unsuccessful in the beginning, failing to win their division until 1990–91, but accumulated draft picks and built a strong team that would win two Stanley Cups in the early 1990s. The Los Angeles Kings made one Stanley Cup finals appearance in 1993 during the Wayne Gretzky era, but have not returned.

At the end of the 2008–09 season, which marked the 40th season for the expansion teams, the Penguins are the most successful in terms of number of Stanley Cups (3). The Flyers are the most successful expansion team in terms of winning percentage (57.8%), number of conference finals appearances (14), Stanley Cup finals appearances (8) and playoff appearances (32).

The disappointment for the league was the Oakland-based franchise which, uncompetitive both on the ice and at the box office, was moved to Cleveland and became the Barons in 1976, and then merged with the Minnesota North Stars (now Dallas Stars) in 1978.[5]

The expansion was the end of the Original Six era, and the beginning of the modern era of the NHL. There would be further expansions in 1970, 1972 and 1974. The expansion, Bobby Orr's record contract, and the World Hockey Association forever changed the landscape of the North American professional game.[3][5]

References

  1. ^ a b c d e f g Isaacs, Neil (1977). Checking Back. McLeod Limited. 
  2. ^ a b c Coleman, Charles L. (1976). The Trail of the Stanley Cup, Vol III. Progressive Publications. 
  3. ^ a b c Fischler, Stan and Fischler, Shirley Walton (1983). The Hockey Encyclopedia. MacMillan Publishing Company. 
  4. ^ Cruise, David and Griffiths, Alison (1991). Net Worth: Exploding The Myths of Pro Hockey. Stoddart Publishing. 
  5. ^ a b c d e Diamond, Dan (ed.) (1998). Total Hockey. Andrews McMeel Publishing. 
  6. ^ McFarlane, Brian (1969). 50 Years of Hockey. Greywood Publishing Ltd. 

See also


Simple English

The 1967 NHL Expansion had the National Hockey League add new teams to the league. Six teams were added to the league, which already had six teams in it. It was the end of the Original Six era in the NHL, which had happened since 1942.

Before the expansion, there were six teams:

The six teams added in 1967 were:


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