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Wednesday February 24, 2010 7:30 pm

The history of the NHL: The Original Six Era




Posted by Adrien Griffin Categories: Athletes, Editorial, NHL

Gordie HoweThe history of the NHL can be divided into four unique eras, each spanning roughly 25 years. The second era, and most historic of those past, is the Original Six era, where six oldest existing teams battled each other year after year for the Stanley Cup. Toronto, Montreal, NY Rangers, Boston, Chicago an Detroit formed intense rivalries amongst each other and carried the NHL through a golden age of competition unlike any other in sports; one defined by heroes, dynasties and defining the game.

The Leafs, Red Wings and the Canadiens were the dynasties of the 50s. Other than Chicago in 1961, these three franchises were the only ones to win a Cup during this era. Detroit, lead by Gordie Howe, played in 11 out of 16 Stanley Cup finals between 1941 and 1956, winning five of them. Included was a streak of seven consecutive first-place finishes. The Canadiens managed to dethrone the great Red Wings, and one of the biggest players to contribute to that was Montreal’s Maurice “The Rocket” Richard, the first player to score 50 goals in 50 games. He helped his glorious franchise capture a record five-straight Stanley Cups from 1956-60.

A new innovation to the way hockey was promoted was with Hockey Night in Canada. The occasional televised game helped to grow interest in the sport, as fans could watch their favorite stars without having to travel to an arena. Owners were initially skeptical and hesitant to accept televised games, as it took away from gate revenues, but quickly the value was realized and more and more games were broadcast in both Canada and the United States.

In 1957, Ted Lindsay of the Red Wings began putting together a Players’ Association, claiming that the owners had too much power. His efforts were stomped out overwhelmingly. The NHL itself was growing too big for six teams. In 1967, the size of the league doubled and brought its own set of new challenges. For some of the Original Six, it was business as usual, but for teams like Toronto and Chicago, whose most recent Stanley Cup wins are 1967 and 1961 respectively, the glory days are now far, far behind.

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