The National Hockey League (NHL) is a professional men's ice hockey league, founded in 1917.[1] The NHL Board of Governors review and approve the relocation of any member club.[2] Each team appoints an individual or individuals to represent their team on the Board of Governors.[3] A majority vote is needed for relocation of a club. Clubs are considered permanently relocated when moved out of their respective home territories, which includes the city that they were located in, plus 50 miles from the city's corporate limits.[3]

Under the constitution of the NHL, membership is on a partnership basis, each partner holding a franchise from the League for the operation of a hockey club in its designated city.[4] The franchise can out-live teams located in different cities. For example, the Kansas City Scouts, Colorado Rockies, and New Jersey Devils are one franchise. A franchise's history includes the records of competition won in different cities, as differently-named teams. Naming and team logos and designs are registered with the league. The current Ottawa Senators and Winnipeg Jets had to get the formal permission of the league members to use the name of the previous franchise that had used the team nickname. The league considers the history of the current Senators to not include the original Senators; the Jets' franchise history includes the Atlanta Thrashers' history, not the first Winnipeg Jets.

There are 19 defunct and relocated NHL teams. The Montreal Wanderers, original Ottawa Senators, and the Quebec Bulldogs had played in the NHA before joining the NHL; Quebec City joined the NHL two years later as the Athletics.[5] The Pittsburgh Pirates played in the U.S. Amateur Hockey Association as the Pittsburgh Yellow Jackets before joining the NHL in 1925.[6] The first NHL team to disband was the Montreal Wanderers, citing the lack of available players due to World War I.[7] The first team to relocate was the Athletics, who relocated to Hamilton, Ontario to become the Hamilton Tigers. The NHL president at the time, Frank Calder, stripped the franchise from owner Mike Quinn and sold it to a Hamilton-based company.[8] Three franchises became defunct due to the Great Depression: the Philadelphia Quakers, the St. Louis Eagles, and the Montreal Maroons. During their time in the NHL, the Senators and Maroons both won the Stanley Cup championship multiple times, with four and two respectively. The Brooklyn Americans was the last team to become defunct in the NHL. The franchise was struggling financially, and due to the lack of players via World War II, was suspended prior to the 1942–43. The franchise formally ceased in 1946.[9] The Americans departure reduced the number of teams to six. This began what became known as the Original Six era of the NHL.

The Original Six era ended when the NHL expanded twofold in 1967. Two teams from the expansion—the California Golden Seals and the Minnesota North Stars—relocated to other cities. The Golden Seals moved to Cleveland after nine seasons in the San Francisco Bay Area to become the Cleveland Barons; this was the first time in four decades the NHL approved a franchise relocation.[10] Two years later, after failed overtures towards merging with the Washington Capitals and the Vancouver Canucks, the Barons merged with the North Stars.[11] The Barons are the only NHL team to merge operations with another one. The North Stars relocated to Dallas in 1993 to become the Stars.[12]

After six additional expansion teams, the merger of the Cleveland Barons with the Minnesota North Stars, and the NHL–WHA merger, the league had expanded to 21 teams by 1979. Three of the four teams from the NHL–WHA merger relocated to other cities: the Quebec Nordiques, the original Winnipeg Jets, and the Hartford Whalers.[13] The Nordiques became the Colorado Avalanche in 1995, while the Winnipeg Jets became the Phoenix Coyotes in 1996 and rebranded as the Arizona Coyotes in 2014, with the Hartford Whalers moving to Raleigh, NC and becoming the Carolina Hurricanes in 1997. The Winnipeg Jets identity was revived in 2011, when a Winnipeg-based company received approval from the league to purchase the struggling Atlanta Thrashers and relocate them to Winnipeg for the 2011–12.[14] Out of the seven active relocated franchises in the NHL, two have not yet won the Stanley Cup championship: the Coyotes and the Jets (both teams have also never been to the Stanley Cup Finals).[15]

Most of the metropolitan areas that have hosted relocated or defunct teams have been given another NHL team. Montreal, Quebec City and Atlanta all have two defunct or relocated teams with the Wanderers and Maroons, the Athletics and Nordiques, and the Flames and Thrashers, respectively. Philadelphia (Philadelphia Flyers), Pittsburgh (Pittsburgh Penguins), and St. Louis (St. Louis Blues) gained teams during the 1967 expansion. After losing the Americans, two more teams have been added into the New York metropolitan area: the New York Islanders in 1972 and the New Jersey Devils in 1982. Other former host-metropolitan areas of NHL teams that have been given another team include: San Francisco Bay Area (San Jose Sharks in 1991), Ottawa (current Ottawa Senators in 1992), Denver (Colorado Avalanche in 1995), Minneapolis – St. Paul (Minnesota Wild in 2000) and Winnipeg (current Jets in 2011).[16]

Defunct and relocated teamsEdit

First First year in the NHL
Last Last year in the NHL
Record Win–loss–tie–overtime record
Win% Winning percentage
PA NHL (1918–1926) / Stanley Cup playoffs (1927–present) appearances
SC Stanley Cup wins
* Denotes active franchise
^ City would later receive a new franchise
Team First Last Relocated to Seasons Record Win% PA SC Reason for relocation/disbandment Reference
Montreal Wanderers19171918[g] Defunct11–5–0.16700Lack of available players due to World War I and arena burned down[7][17]
Quebec Bulldogs^19191920Hamilton Tigers14–20–0.16700Sold to a Hamilton-based company[8][18]
Hamilton Tigers19201925Defunct547–78–1.37700Ceased operations due to players' strike; players were bought by the New York Americans.[19][20]
Pittsburgh Pirates^[a] 19251930Philadelphia Quakers567–122–23.37020Financial problems during the Great Depression[6][21]
Philadelphia Quakers^19301931Defunct14–36–4.13600Financial problems during the Great Depression[6][22]
Ottawa Senators^[b] 19171934St. Louis Eagles16[h] 258–221–63.53494Financial problems during the Great Depression[23][24]
St. Louis Eagles^19341935Defunct111–31–6.29200Financial problems during the Great Depression[25][26]
Montreal Maroons19241938Defunct14271–260–91.509112Financial problems during the Great Depression[27][28]
Brooklyn Americans^[c] 19251942Defunct17255–402–127.40650Financial problems, plus lack of players due to World War II; formally ceased in 1946.[9][29]
California Golden Seals^[d] 19671976Cleveland Barons9182–401–115.34320In search of better financial conditions; Cleveland is the hometown of minority owner George Gund III.[30][31]
Kansas City Scouts19741976Colorado Rockies227–110–23.24100Financial problems; sold to a group of investors with the intention to move.[32][33]
Cleveland Barons19761978Minnesota North Stars (merge)247–87–26.37500Both teams with financial problems. To date, the Barons are the last NHL franchise to cease operations.[11][31]
Atlanta Flames^19721980Calgary Flames*8268–260–108.50660Financial problems; sold to Nelson Skalbania with the intention to move to Calgary.[34]
Colorado Rockies^[e] 19761982New Jersey Devils*6113–281–86.32500Sold to John McMullen in search of better financial conditions; New Jersey is McMullen's home state.[35][33]
Minnesota North Stars^19671993Dallas Stars*26758–970–334.449170In search of better financial conditions.[12]
Quebec Nordiques19791995Colorado Avalanche*16497–599–160.45990Financial problems; sold to a Denver-based group.[36]
Winnipeg Jets^[f] 19791996Arizona Coyotes*17506–660–172.442110Sold to a group of investors with the intention to move in search of better financial conditions.[37][38]
Hartford Whalers19791997Carolina Hurricanes*18534–709–177.43880In search of better financial conditions.[39][40]
Atlanta Thrashers19992011Winnipeg Jets*11[i] 342–437–45–78.44710Financial problems; sold to a Winnipeg-based company TNSE.[14][41]


  • a  This team was not affiliated with the Pittsburgh Pirates of Major League Baseball (MLB).
  • b  This team was not affiliated with the present-day Ottawa Senators.
  • c  The team was formerly known as the New York Americans (1925–1941), and was not affiliated with the Rangers, the Islanders, or the Devils. In addition, the Devils relocated from East Rutherford to Newark in 2007, while the Islanders relocated from Uniondale to Brooklyn in 2015 and returned on a part-time basis to Uniondale in 2018. However, the Devils and the Islanders have never relocated out of the New York metropolitan area.
  • d  The team was formerly known as the California Seals (1967), Oakland Seals (1967–1970), and Bay Area Seals (1970).
  • e  This team was not affiliated with the Colorado Rockies of MLB.
  • f  This team was not affiliated with the present-day Winnipeg Jets.
  • g  The Wanderers played four games during the 1917–18 before becoming defunct; a further two games were defaulted before the club folded.[42]
  • h  The Senators were on hiatus during the 1931–32 due to financial problems.[43]
  • i  The 2004–05 season was cancelled due to the season lockout.[44]

Map of defunct and relocated teamsEdit

Winnipeg Jets (1972–96)Minnesota North StarsQuebec BulldogsQuebec NordiquesCalifornia Golden SealsAtlanta FlamesAtlanta ThrashersSt. Louis EaglesKansas City ScoutsKansas City ScoutsColorado Rockies (NHL)Pittsburgh Pirates (NHL)Pittsburgh Pirates (NHL)Cleveland Barons (NHL)Cleveland Barons (NHL)Philadelphia QuakersPhiladelphia QuakersOttawa Senators (original)Ottawa Senators (original)Montreal MaroonsMontreal WanderersHartford WhalersNew York AmericansHamilton Tigers (ice hockey)Nhldefunctteams
About this image

Map of the defunct and relocated NHL teams; the team names are clickable.

See alsoEdit


  1. Holzman 2002, p. 159
  2. McGran, Kevin. "NHL`s secret constitution revealed", Toronto Star, June 6, 2009. Retrieved on May 17, 2011. 
  3. 3.0 3.1 "Constitution of the National Hockey League", The Star. Retrieved on May 17, 2011. 
  4. NHL Constitution, p. 2
  5. Pincus 2006, p. 24
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 Bouchette, Ed. "Ice Age", Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, May 2, 1999. Retrieved on April 30, 2011. 
  7. 7.0 7.1 McFarlane, Brian. Early Leagues and the Birth of the NHL. National Hockey League. Retrieved on April 30, 2011.
  8. 8.0 8.1 Holzman 2002, p. 230
  9. 9.0 9.1 McFarlane 1990, p. 43
  10. McFarlane 1990, p. 144
  11. 11.0 11.1 McFarlane 1990, p. 163
  12. 12.0 12.1 Montville, Leigh. "Spleen for Green", Sports Illustrated, April 19, 1993. Retrieved on May 12, 2011. 
  13. Willes, Ed (2004). The Rebel League: The Short and Unruly Life of the World Hockey Association. McClelland & Stewart. ISBN 0-7710-8947-3. 
  14. 14.0 14.1 Dan Rosen. "NHL Board unanimous on Winnipeg sale, relocation", National Hockey League, June 21, 2011. Retrieved on May 10, 2015. 
  15. Stanley Cup Champions and Finalists. National Hockey League. Retrieved on April 18, 2013.
  16. Teams. National Hockey League. Retrieved on April 30, 2011.
  17. Montreal Wanderers Franchise Index. Sports Reference LLC. Retrieved on April 30, 2011.
  18. Quebec Bulldogs Franchise Index. Sports Reference LLC. Retrieved on April 30, 2011.
  19. Pincus 2006, p. 35
  20. Hamilton Tigers Franchise Index. Sports Reference LLC. Retrieved on April 30, 2011.
  21. Pittsburgh Pirates Franchise Index. Sports Reference LLC. Retrieved on April 30, 2011.
  22. Philadelphia Quakers Franchise Index. Sports Reference LLC. Retrieved on April 30, 2011.
  23. "No NHL Hockey Team for Ottawa Next Winter", The Ottawa Evening Citizen, April 7, 1934, p. 1. 
  24. Ottawa Senators Franchise Index. Sports Reference LLC. Retrieved on April 30, 2011.
  25. "St Louis Out of Title Hunt: League Buys Franchise Splits Players Among Remaining Eight Clubs", October 16, 1935. Retrieved on May 18, 2011. 
  26. St. Louis Eagles Franchise Index. Sports Reference LLC. Retrieved on April 30, 2011.
  27. Coleman, Charles L. (1969). The Trail of the Stanley Cup, Vol II. Progressive Publications. 
  28. Montreal Maroons Franchise Index. Sports Reference LLC. Retrieved on April 30, 2011.
  29. New York Americans Franchise Index. Sports Reference LLC. Retrieved on April 30, 2011.
  30. Bass, Alan (2011). The Great Expansion: The Ultimate Risk That Changed the NHL Forever, 83. ISBN 1-4502-8605-4. 
  31. 31.0 31.1 Cleveland Barons Franchise Index. Sports Reference LLC. Retrieved on April 30, 2011.
  32. "Scout Move Almost Complete", July 16, 1976. Retrieved on May 27, 2011. 
  33. 33.0 33.1 New Jersey Devils Franchise Index. Sports Reference LLC. Retrieved on April 30, 2011.
  34. Calgary Flames Franchise Index. Sports Reference LLC. Retrieved on April 30, 2011.
  35. McFarlane 1990, p. 206
  36. Colorado Avalanche Franchise Index. Sports Reference LLC. Retrieved on April 30, 2011.
  37. Phoenix isn't only city interested in Winnipeg Jets. The Daily Courier (December 3, 1995). Retrieved on April 30, 2011.
  38. Phoenix Coyotes Franchise Index. Sports Reference LLC. Retrieved on April 30, 2011.
  39. Rabinovitz, Jonathan. "Another Blow to Hartford: Whalers to Leave, Rejecting Arena Offer", The New York Times, March 27, 1997. Retrieved on April 30, 2011. 
  40. Carolina Hurricanes Franchise Index. Sports Reference LLC. Retrieved on April 30, 2011.
  41. Atlanta Thrashers Franchise Index. Sports Reference LLC. Retrieved on June 1, 2011.
  42. 1917-18 NHL Season Summary. Sports Reference LLC. Retrieved on April 30, 2011.
  43. *Wong, John Chi-Kit (2005). Lords of the Rinks: The Emergence of the National Hockey League, 1875–1936. Toronto, Ontario: University of Toronto Press, 130. ISBN 0-8020-8520-2. 
  44. *Burnside, Scott. "Lockout's future holds myriad possibilities",, ESPN Internet Ventures, February 16, 2005. Retrieved on April 18, 2013. 

Further readingEdit

Relocated and defunct NHL teams
(still active)
Atlanta Flames · Colorado Rockies · Hartford Whalers · Kansas City Scouts · Minnesota North Stars · Quebec Nordiques · Winnipeg Jets
Defunct California/Oakland (Golden) Seals · Cleveland Barons · Hamilton Tigers (NHL) · Montreal Maroons · Montreal Wanderers · New York/Brooklyn Americans · Ottawa Senators (original) · Philadelphia Quakers · Pittsburgh Pirates · Quebec Bulldogs · St. Louis Eagles
List of NHL-related topics
History Original Six · 1967 NHL Expansion · Timeline of the National Hockey League · List of NHL seasons · Most frequent NHL playoff series · Stanley Cup champions · Rivalries · Defunct teams · Retired numbers
NHL personnel List of NHL players · NHL statistical leaders (by country of birth) · NHL players with 1000 points · NHL players with 500 goals · NHL players with 100 point seasons · List of famous ice hockey linemates · NHL head coaches · NHL General Managers · Notable families in the NHL · NHL Presidents and Commissioners
Records Individual records · Team records · League records · Post-season streaks · Post-season droughts · Wayne Gretzky's records · 50 goals in 50 games
Related leagues, tournaments and games International competitions · National Women's Hockey League · American Hockey League · World Cup of Hockey · NHL All-Star Game · NHL Challenge · NHL All-Star Celebrity Challenge · World Hockey Association
Other NHL arenas · NHL Entry Draft · NHL awards · NHL All-Rookie Team · NHL trade deadline · NHL player salaries · Violence in ice hockey · NHL mascots
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