The National Hockey League (NHL) had just six teams from 1942-43 until expansion in 1967. The six teams—Boston Bruins, Chicago Black Hawks, Detroit Red Wings, Montreal Canadiens, New York Rangers and Toronto Maple Leafs—have been called the “original six” since at least 1966.
[This entry was assisted by research from Bill Mullins of the American Dialect Society.]
Wikipedia: Original Six
The Original Six is a term for the group of six teams that made up the National Hockey League (NHL) for the 25 seasons between the 1942–43 season and the 1967 NHL Expansion. These six teams are the Boston Bruins, Chicago Black Hawks, Detroit Red Wings, Montreal Canadiens, New York Rangers, and the Toronto Maple Leafs. All of the Original Six are still active franchises in the league.
The term, not contemporaneous to the era, originated as early as 1967, so that while only the Montreal and Toronto franchises existed in the NHL’s inaugural 1917–18 season, the six existing teams going into the 1967-68 expansion to twelve teams were commonly considered as a traditional set.
The Original Six era has been criticized for having a playoff system that was too easy (only two teams were eliminated after the regular season) and for featuring too many dominant teams (Montreal never missed the playoffs between 1949 and 1967 and Detroit and Toronto only missed three times each, leaving the other three teams to compete for the one remaining berth).
11 February 1966, Morning Advocate (Baton Rouge, LA), “Boxing Trails In Expansion” (UPI), pg. 6-C, col. 2:
The hockey people took the biggest strides among the team sports with a 100 per cent expansion to take effect in the 1967-68 season.
That means six new teams joining the more or less original six but plans for providing players to the newcomers are still mighty hazy.
3 March 1966, Long Beach (CA) Independent, pg. 42 col. 1:
Owners of the original six teams do not feel their division will be greatly hurt or weakened by whatever plan is adopted to stock the new teams.
5 July 1967, The Independent (Pasadena, CA), “Kings Seek Arena Dates” by Don Pickard, pg. C-3:
Kelly expects to have some 55-60 players in camp, as many as any of the original six NHL clubs can expect.
15 August 1971, Richmond (VA) Times-Dispatch, “How the Robins came south,” pg. K24, col. 4:
The latter (Toronto—ed.) was one of the NHL’s original six, an established organization that had been in the business a long time.
The Sporting News
The five other members of the NHL “Original Six”—Boston, Detroit, Montreal, the New York Rangers and Toronto—all had passed the 10,000-goal mark prior to this season.
Old Time Hockey Trivia: The Original Six
Greystone Books, 1995 - Sports & Recreation - 137 pages
Before multimillion-dollar deals, rinkboard advertising, and union lockouts, hockey produced many of the game’s greatest legends, bloodiest rivalries, and most enduring memories. From 1942 to 1967, six NHL teams set standards and records by which today’s superstars still measure all-star performance. Test your knowledge of the players, teams, seasons, and lore of the remarkable “Golden Age” with hundreds of challenging questions. 128 pages, 15 b/w illus., 5 1/2 x 8 1/2.
OCLC WorldCat record
Hockey greats of the original six : a collection of biographical notes, profiles and statistics on hockey stars from the NHL’s elite era
Author: Robert G Anstey
Publisher: Sardis, BC : West Coast Paradise Pub., ©2003.
Edition/Format: Book : English
October 1, 2014
THE NATIONAL HOCKEY LEAGUE
The NHL has had a lot of different looks over the years.
But today there are 30 teams, each trying to make the playoffs.
The National Hockey League, or NHL, was founded in Canada in 1917. A number of teams have come and gone but six teams remain active from the early years. The Boston Bruins, Chicago Blackhawks, Detroit Red Wings, Montreal Canadiens, New York Rangers and Toronto Maple Leafs are nicknamed “The Original Six.”