NHL Franchise Expansion and Relocation Primer

After watching an Anaheim Ducks game against the visiting Winnipeg Jets which had been the Atlanta Thrashers and the old Winnipeg Jets were now the Phoenix Coyotes, I thought I would try to get my bearings on what team came from where (with help from Wikipedia).  Especially since, the NHL is considering adding two more teams with Seattle , Portland, Las Vegas,  Kitchener, Toronto and Quebec in the running and the Islanders moving to Brooklyn in 2015.

Never Moved





Expansion Team with Prior NHL Franchise


Minnesota Wild



The Minnesota North Stars were a professional ice hockey team in the National Hockey League (NHL) for 26 seasons, from 1967 to 1993. The North Stars played their home games at the Met Center in Bloomington, and the team’s colors for most of its history were green, yellow, gold and white. The North Stars played 2,062 regular season games and made the NHL playoffs 17 times, including two Stanley Cup Finals appearances. In the fall of 1993, the franchise moved to Dallas, Texas, and is now known as the Dallas Stars.




The Minnesota Wild are a National Hockey League team based in St. Paul, Minnesota.  They are the only of the Minneapolis-St. Paul area sports franchises to play in St. Paul.

The team was founded on June 25, 1997, but started playing in the 2000-01 NHL season. The Wild is also the first NHL franchise in Minnesota since the Minnesota North Stars moved to Dallas in 1993.



Ottawa Senators




The Ottawa Senators were an amateur, and later, professional, ice hockey team based in Ottawa, Canada which existed from 1883 to 1954. The club was the first hockey club in Ontario, a founding member of the National Hockey League (NHL) and played in the NHL from 1917 until 1934.



The city of Ottawa did not have an NHL franchise again until the new Ottawa Senators franchise was awarded for the 1992–93 season. The NHL presented the Senators with a “certificate of reinstatement” commemorating Ottawa’s return to the league, and the current Senators honour the original franchise’s 11 Stanley Cups. However, records for the two teams are kept separately. Frank Finnigan, the last surviving member of the original Senators’ last Stanley Cup winner, played a key role in the drive to win an expansion franchise for Ottawa. He was slated to drop the puck in a ceremonial face-off for the new franchise’s first game, but died a year before that game took place. The new Senators honoured Finnigan by retiring his #8 jersey.



San Jose Sharks


The California Golden Seals were a National Hockey League team based in Oakland, California from 1967–76. Initially named California Seals, the team was renamed Oakland Seals partway through the 1967–68 season, and then to California Golden Seals in 1970. The Seals were one of six teams added to the league as part of the 1967 NHL expansion.  However, the Seals were never successful at the gate, and eventually moved to Cleveland to become the Cleveland Barons in 1976.


The San Jose Sharks are an NHL team based in San JoseCalifornia, United States. TThey play their home games at the SAP Center at San Jose, known locally as the Shark Tank.

Gordon and George Gund III, who had been minority owners of the Seals who were instrumental in their move to Cleveland in 1976 and a 1978 merger with theMinnesota North Stars, purchased the North Stars in 1978.  By the late 1980s they asked the NHL for permission to move the North Stars to the Bay Area in the late 1980s, but the league vetoed the proposed move. Meanwhile, a group led by former Hartford Whalers owner Howard Baldwin was pushing the NHL to bring a team to San Jose, where a new arena was being built. Eventually the league struck a compromise: the Gunds would sell their share of the North Stars to Baldwin’s group, with the Gunds receiving an expansion team in the Bay Area to begin play in the 1991–92 season and being allowed to take a certain number of players from the North Stars to their new club. In return, the North Stars would be allowed to participate as an equal partner in an expansion draft with the new Bay Area team.  On May 5, 1990, the Gunds officially sold their share of the North Stars to Baldwin and were awarded a new team for the Bay Area, based in San Jose. Over 5,000 potential names were submitted by mail for the new team. While the first-place finisher was “Blades,” the Gunds were concerned about the name’s potentially negative association with weapons, and went with the runner-up, “Sharks.”The name was said to have been inspired by the large number of sharks living in the Pacific Ocean. Seven different varieties live there, and one area of water near the Bay Area is known as the “red triangle” because of its shark population.  When the WHA was formed in 1972, the franchise that was awarded to San Francisco was named the Sharks. Funding fell through and the franchise was awarded to a group from Quebec (where the team would become the Nordiques).

For their first two seasons, the Sharks played at the Cow Palace in Daly City, just outside San Francisco, a facility that the NHL and the Seals had rejected in 1967. For their third season, 1993–94, the Sharks moved to their current home, the San Jose Arena (now the SAP Center at San Jose).


Relocated Teams


Calgary Flames



The Atlanta Flames were a National Hockey League team based in Atlanta, Georgia from 1972 until 1980. The team was created as part of the NHL’s conflict with the rival World Hockey Association (WHA) in a bid to keep the latter league out of the Omni Coliseum.  The team enjoyed modest success on the ice, qualifying for the post-season in six of its eight seasons, but failed to win a playoff series. Off the ice, the franchise struggled to draw fans and, after averaging only 10,000 per game in 1979–80, was sold and relocated to Canada to become the Calgary Flames.



The Calgary Flames are a National Hockey League team based in Calgary, Alberta,  The club is the third major-professional ice hockey team to represent the city of Calgary, following the NHL’s Calgary Tigers (1921–27) and the WHA’s Calgary Cowboys (1975–77).



Carolina Hurricanes



The Hartford Whalers were a professional ice hockey team based for most of its existence in Hartford, Connecticut. The club played in the World Hockey Association (WHA) from 1972–79 and in the National Hockey League (NHL) from 1979–97. In 1997, the franchise relocated to Greensboro, North Carolina, where it became the Carolina Hurricanes.  In 1999 the franchise moved to Raleigh, North Carolina upon the completion of a new arena.  The team joined the WHA in the league’s inaugural 1972 season. Originally based in Boston, Massachusetts, it was known as the New England Whalers throughout its time in WHA. The team moved to Hartford in 1974 and joined the NHL in the NHL–WHA merger of 1979.


The Carolina Hurricanes are a National Hockey League team  based in Raleigh, North Carolina. They are the only major league professional sports team in North Carolina to play in Raleigh; the state’s other two major franchises, the NFL’s Carolina Panthers and the NBA’sCharlotte Bobcats, are based in Charlotte.



Colorado Avalanche


The Quebec Nordiques were a professional ice hockey team based in Quebec City, Quebec.  The Nordiques played in the World Hockey Association (1972–79) and the National Hockey League (1979–95).  The Quebec Nordiques formed as one of the original World Hockey Association teams in 1972. The franchise was originally awarded to a group in San Francisco, as the San Francisco Sharks. However, the San Francisco group’s funding collapsed prior to the start of the first season, and the WHA hastily sold the organization to a group of six Quebec City-based businessmen who owned the highly profitable Quebec Remparts junior team. They were named the Nordiques because they were one of the northernmost teams in professional sports in North America. Quebec City is located at 46 degrees north latitude; the only WHA teams located farther north were the Edmonton Oilers, Calgary Cowboys, Vancouver Blazersand Winnipeg Jets.   The franchise was relocated to Denver, Colorado, in 1995, and renamed the Colorado Avalanche.  The Nordiques hold the distinction of being the only major professional sports team to have been based in Quebec City in the modern era, and one of only two ever; the other, the Quebec Bulldogs, played one season in the NHL in 1919–20.


The Colorado Avalanche are a National Hockey League team  based in Denver,Colorado. The Avalanche were founded in 1972 as the Quebec Nordiques within the rival World Hockey Association. The Nordiques became members of the NHL in 1979 with the NHL–WHA merger. Following the 1994-95 season, the Nordiques were sold to the COMSAT Entertainment Group of Denver and relocated there, where they were renamed the Avalanche. In their first year in Denver, the Avs won the Pacific Division and went on to sweep the Florida Panthers in the Finals, becoming the first NHL team to win the Stanley Cup in the season following a relocation. This was the first major professional sports championship a Denver-based team would bring to the city. In the 2001 Stanley Cup Finals, the Avalanche defeated the New Jersey Devils 4–3 to win their second and most recent championship. Coincidentally, the Devils had preceded the Avalanche in Denver; they were called theColorado Rockies.


Dallas Stars


The Minnesota North Stars were a professional ice hockey team in the National Hockey League (NHL) for 26 seasons, from 1967 to 1993. The North Stars played 2,062 regular season games and made the NHL playoffs 17 times, including two Stanley Cup Finals appearances. In the fall of 1993, the franchise moved to Dallas, Texas, and is now known as the Dallas Stars.


The California Golden Seals were a National Hockey League team based in Oakland, California from 1967–76. Initially named California Seals, the team was renamed Oakland Seals partway through the 1967–68 season, and then to California Golden Seals in 1970. The Seals were one of six teams added to the league as part of the 1967 NHL expansion.  However, the Seals were never successful at the gate, and eventually moved to Cleveland to become the Cleveland Barons in 1976.



The Cleveland Barons were a National Hockey League team based in Cleveland, Ohio from 1976 to 1978. They were a relocation of the California Golden Seals franchise, which had played in Oakland since 1967. After only two seasons, the team merged with theMinnesota North Stars (now the Dallas Stars). They were the only NHL team ever based in the state of Ohio until the Columbus Blue Jackets formed in 2000. The Barons remain the last franchise in the four major North American sports leagues to cease operations, and as a result the NHL fielded only 17 teams during the 1978–79 season.


The Dallas Stars are a National Hockey League team based in Dallas, Texas. The team was founded during the 1967 NHL expansion as the Minnesota North Stars and relocated to Dallas for the 1993–94 NHL season.  They won the Stanley Cup in the 1998–99 season.




New Jersey Devils



The Kansas City Scouts were a National Hockey League team based in Kansas City from  1974–76.  In 1976, the franchise relocated to Denver, Colorado and became the Colorado Rockies  The Kansas City franchise was to be called the Kansas City Mohawks, since the Kansas City metropolitan area includes portions of Missouri and Kansas. The name would have combined Missouri’s postal abbreviation (MO) and the Kansas nickname of “Jayhawkers.” However, the Chicago Black Hawks objected because “Mohawks” sounded too much like “Black Hawks.” The team then held a contest for people to name the new team. The name Scouts was chosen, named after The Scout which is located in Penn Valley Park and overlooks downtown. The iconic statue was featured on the team’s logo. The Scouts suffered from inflated player costs, undercapitalized ownership, an economic downturn in the Midwest, poor performance on the ice and poor attendance.


The Colorado Rockies were aa National Hockey League team based in Denver, Colorado, from 1976 to 1982. They were a relocation of the Kansas City Scouts, a 1974 expansion team. The franchise moved to East Rutherford, New Jersey, in 1982 and was renamed the New Jersey Devils. The NHL would not return to Denver until the Quebec Nordiques moved there to become the Colorado Avalanche following the 1994–95 season.  Denver originally was slated to get an expansion franchise along with Seattle to enter in the 1976-77 season.  The proposed Denver owner sought d to enter the NHL a year early, and the league attempted to broker an arrangement by which he would acquire the struggling California Golden Seals franchise and move them to Denver in lieu of an expansion team. At the same time, the Pittsburgh Penguins would be sold to a Seattle-based group that had also won a conditional franchise for that city.  The proposed arrangement fell through, and with the continuing franchise difficulties, the NHL called off the 1976–77 expansion.



The New Jersey Devils are a National Hockey League team based in Newark, New Jersey. The club was founded in Kansas City, Missouri as the Kansas City Scouts in 1974, moved to Denver, Colorado as the Colorado Rockies after only two seasons, and then established in New Jersey in 1982.



Phoenix Coyotes


The Winnipeg Jets were a professional ice hockey team based in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada. They began play in the World Hockey Association (WHA) in 1972, moving to the National Hockey League (NHL) in 1979 following the collapse of the WHA. Due to mounting financial troubles, in 1996 the franchise moved to Phoenix, Arizona and became the Phoenix Coyotes.



The Phoenix Coyotes are a National Hockey League team based in the Phoenix suburb of Glendale, Arizona.  Since December 2003, the Coyotes have played their home games at Jobing.com Arena after having spent the previous 7½ seasons at America West Arena (now US Airways Center) in downtown Phoenix. The Coyotes were founded in 1972 as the original Winnipeg Jets of the World Hockey Association (WHA) and were one of four franchises absorbed into the NHL when the WHA folded in 1979. The team moved to Phoenix on July 1, 1996.

The NHL took over ownership of the Phoenix Coyotes franchise in 2009 after previous owner Jerry Moyes (who had incurred massive financial losses since his purchase of the team in 2005) turned it over to the league after declaring bankruptcy. Prior to that, Moyes had previously attempted to privately sell the team to Canadian billionaire Jim Balsillie, who wanted to relocate the team to Hamilton, Ontario. but the NHL protested that the attempted sale was a violation of league policy and a court agreed. In the years that followed, the league resisted selling the team to interests that would have moved the team out of the Phoenix area, and on July 3, 2013, reached an agreement that will keep the team in Glendale for the near future. The sale to IceArizona Acquisition Co., LLC. was completed on August 5, 2013. The new ownership group has announced that starting in the 2014–15 season, the team will change its name to the Arizona Coyotes.


Winnipeg Jets


The Atlanta Thrashers were a National Hockey League team based in Atlanta, Georgia. Atlanta was granted a franchise on June 25, 1997, and became the league’s 28th franchise when it began play in the 1999–2000 NHL season. The Thrashers qualified for the Stanley Cup playoffs only once, during the 2006–07 season when they won the Southeast Division, but were swept in the first round by the New York Rangers.  In May 2011, the Thrashers were sold to a Canadian ownership group, True North Sports & Entertainment. The group moved the franchise to Winnipeg, Manitoba, and became the second incarnation of the Winnipeg Jets. With the sale and relocation of the team, Atlanta became the first city in the NHL’s modern era to lose two hockey teams. In both cases, the team moved from Atlanta to Canada; the city’s previous NHL team, the Atlanta Flames, moved to Calgary, Alberta in 1980 to become the Calgary Flames.



The Winnipeg Jets are a National Hockey League team based in Winnipeg, Manitoba.  The team is owned by True North Sports & Entertainment, which relocated and renamed the former Atlanta Thrashers franchise prior to the 2011–12 NHL season (the first NHL franchise relocated since the Hartford Whalers became theCarolina Hurricanes in 1997).  The team plays its home games at the MTS Centre and take their name after Winnipeg’s original WHA/NHL team (which became the Phoenix Coyotes after relocating in 1996).




2 thoughts on “NHL Franchise Expansion and Relocation Primer

  1. Just for clarification, you make no mention of the San Jose Sharks. While their formation and induction into the NHL is unique, based on their shared history with the old Minnesota Northstars / Dallas Stars franchise (with the Gunds), and given that the franchise began NHL play in San Francisco’s Cow Palace while their arena was still under construction, the Sharks have never technically moved.

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