Last year NHL celebrated 100 years and the League changed a lot during this century. Of course, all we heard about the Original Six, their era of the NHL lasted for 25 seasons without any organizational change. To be honest, there were a lot of different teams in the League before 1942, they joined the NHL, came out from it and moved from city to city. But the Original Six is recognized as the basis of the League, their Era lasted from 1942 to 1967 when the Expansion era began.
In 1942-1943 the Brooklyn Americans left the NHL, and in the next 25 seasons, only six teams played in the League: Boston Bruins, Chicago Black Hawks, Detroit Red Wings, Montreal Canadiens, New York Rangers and Toronto Maple Leafs.
The biggest expansion of the six teams and the first Expansion Draft took place in 1967. NHL still was the smallest of the four major American leagues (NFL, MLB, NBA, NHL) and doubled number of the participating team with the first Expansion Draft. California Seals, Los Angeles Kings, Minnesota North Stars, Philadelphia Flyers, Pittsburgh Penguins and St. Louis Blues were added to the League, the California Seals changed their name to the Oakland Seals during their inaugural season in the NHL.
Already three years later, in 1970, two more teams joined the NHL: Buffalo Sabres and Vancouver Canucks. The forthcoming NHL season is the 50th anniversary season for both of the teams, and Vancouver Canucks already presented their special alternate jersey to wear in the special games this season. Also, the Oakland Seals were renamed twice in the 1970-71 season: first the Bay Area Seals and two games later they changed the name to the California Golden Seals.
An another NHL team appeared in New York in 1972. The New York Islanders joined the League along with the Atlanta Flames, and apart from the expansion fee Islanders had to pay additional $5 million fees to the Rangers for infringing on their territory of the New York City. The first NHL game Flames and Islanders played against each other.
Another two years went before the next NHL expansion when the current Stanley Cup Champion Washington Capitals was added to the league as well as the Kansas City Scouts. The team in the Kansas City existed not a long time and soon, in the 1977-78 season, the Scouts moved and became the Colorado Rockies. The California Golden Seals also relocated the same season to become the Cleveland Barons, but one season later this team merged into the Minnesota North Stars.
The Expansion era ended with the 5th expansion in 12 years, the second biggest one. Four teams joined the NHL in 1979 and doubled the number of the Canadian teams in the League: Edmonton Oilers, Hartford Whalers, Quebec Nordiques, and Winnipeg Jets. The following season another Canadian team was added to this list when the Atlanta Flames relocated to Calgary in 1980. Also, the Colorado Rockies moved in 1982 and became the New Jersey Devils, and until 1991 no one new team were added to the NHL nor any team moved.
In 1991, with the joining of the San Jose Sharks to the NHL the new period of the rapid expansion has begun. Already the following season two new teams joined the NHL: Ottawa Senators and Tampa Bay Lightning. The total number of the teams increased to 24. In 1993 the Florida Panthers and the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim started their inaugural NHL season. As the New York Islanders in 1972, the Mighty Ducks paid a special fee to the Los Angeles Kings for infringing on their region.
There was a pause in the expansion of the League until 1998, but a couple of teams relocated in 1993-1997. Minnesota North Stars relocated and became the Dallas Stars in 1993, Quebec Nordiques moved to the United States and became the Colorado Rockies two years later, in 1995. Another Canadian team, the Winnipeg Jets, also changed the country and became the Phoenix Coyotes in 1996. The following season the Carolina Hurricanes appeared on the NHL map after the relocation of the Hartford Whalers.
Another two teams joined the NHL in 1998, the Nashville Predators, and in 1999, the Atlanta Thrashers. The league reached the total number of the teams of 30 the following season (2000-01) for the next 18 seasons. The last two teams to join the NHL before this "break" were the Columbus Blue Jackets and the Minnesota Wild.
In the following 18 seasons, two teams changed their names: the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim became the Anaheim Ducks in the 2006-07 season after the team was sold to another owner, and the Phoenix Coyotes changed their name to Arizona Coyotes in 2014. Also, the NHL hockey came back to Winnipeg in 2011, when the Atlanta Thrashers relocated to Canada.
The last NHL expansion, for now, took place in 2016, when the Vegas Golden Knights joined the League. They performed awesome in their inaugural season and made the Stanley Cup Finals, but lost to the Washington Capitals 1-4.
The most likely options to the next NHL Expansion are Quebec and Seattle. Where will the new NHL team be established do you think?