The six clubs that composed the NHL from 1942 to 1967 were the Montreal Canadiens, Toronto Maple Leafs, Boston Bruins, Detroit Red Wings, Chicago Blackhawks, and New York Rangers. Each of these teams has been in a major league sports city except for the Rangers, who have moved several times.
The Habs have the most championships with 13, and although they've never won the Stanley Cup, they're considered by many to be the greatest team in hockey history. The Maple Leafs have won seven titles, most recently in 2017. The Bruins have won six titles, most recently in 1972. The Red Wings have won four titles, most recently in 2008. The Blackhawks have won three titles, most recently in 2010. And the Rangers have won two titles, in 1994 and 1995.
In terms of popularity among fans, the Canadiens lead with more than 600,000 people going to games per year. The Maple Leafs follow with about 500,000 fans. The Bruins are close behind with about 400,000 fans. The Red Wings draw about 350,000 fans. The Blackhawks attract about 300,000 fans. And the Rangers only draw about 250,000 fans.
Here's how many members belong to each of the original six hockey teams: Montreal Canadiens - 6x Hall of Fame players, including one player who is also a builder.
From 1942 through 1967, the clubs were known as the "Original Six": the Blackhawks, Bruins, Canadiens, Maple Leafs, Rangers, and Red Wings. The NHL's 1967 expansion, the largest one-time expansion in any major sport, doubled the league's size. As a result, the East and West Divisions were formed. These divisions would last until 1976, when they were replaced by the current North America and Central Canada divisions.
The North America Division included the Chicago Black Hawks, Detroit Red Wings, and Toronto Maple Leafs. The Central Canada Division consisted of the Boston Bruins, Montreal Canadiens, and New York Rangers.
These three teams were the only ones to qualify for the playoffs each year. In 1968, the first season after expansion, all eight teams qualified for the playoffs. However, since two teams had the same record, the tie was broken by using a series of random drawings where the team with the higher ranking won more games. The Black Hawks drew the highest ranking team (the Red Wings) and defeated them four games to one in the opening round before falling to the Boston Bruins in five games in the quarterfinals.
The following season, the number of playoff teams was reduced to seven due to some teams having identical records. The Red Wings again had the best record in the league and received the top seed. They went on to win their second straight Stanley Cup title, beating the St. Louis Blues four games to one in the final.
Here's how the NHL got its start: The National Hockey Association, which began operations in the 1908-09 season, was the NHL's forerunner. There were six teams by 1916-17: Montreal Canadiens, Montreal Wanderers, Quebec Bulldogs, Ottawa Senators, Toronto Blueshirts, and so forth.
The "original six" are the six teams who competed in the 25 seasons between 1942–43 and the 1967 NHL expansion, and while they are referred to as the "original six," they were not the first clubs.
The Boston Bruins, New York Rangers, Toronto Maple Leafs, Montreal Canadiens, Detroit Red Wings, and Chicago Black Hawks were the first members of the NHL. The Blackhawks would not play another season until 1979 after which they moved to Chicago where they remain today.
The Bruins, Red Wings, and Maple Leafs joined the NHL from the American Hockey League (AHL). The Rangers joined as an original member of the NHL. During their first season, the Maple Leafs and Rangers each played 76 games; both teams had new owners who did not want to continue playing beyond the initial season. The Maple Leafs returned to the NHL in 1972 while the Rangers remained in the AHL until it became the New York MetroStars in 1975. The MetroStars were sold and relocated to Washington D.C. in 1997 becoming the Capitals.
The Canadiens' only season in the NHL was 1967-68. That year, the league expanded to eight teams, with the addition of two more Canadian clubs - the Calgary Flames and Vancouver Canucks - and two American teams - the Philadelphia Flyers and Pittsburgh Penguins. These eight teams would constitute the league for its entire existence until 1977 when it expanded to ten teams.
The Flames, Canucks, Flyers, and Penguins all entered the NHL as charter members. The Flames began play in Atlanta before moving to Calgary in 1980.