19 Sep 2008 by NHL Historyin
When the Toronto Maple Leafs won the Stanley Cup in 1967 it would be the last in the original six period. The league had become a success both financially and on television and faced pressure to expand. With the fear of competing leagues and the search for high priced television contracts the NHL added six teams for the 1967-1968 season. These six new teams would form their own division and compete with the already established original six. With the new teams playing in their own division it guaranteed one of the new teams would play for the Stanley Cup.
The six cities that were selected were California Seals , St. Louis Blues, Los Angeles Kings, Pittsburgh Penguins, Minnesota North Stars and Philadelphia Flyers. Unlike other professional sports leagues in North America, the NHL choose add all teams in one season. The biggest fear upon expanding the league was that the play would weaken with double the amount of players in the league. To fill the new rosters the NHL held an Expansion Draft in the summer of 1967, and each of the new six teams would pick 20 players from the existing NHL rosters. Some big names found their way to new franchises the Los Angeles Kings selected the legendary Terry Sawchuk from Toronto, the Maple Leafs also lost Bob Baun to the California Seals. Bruins goalie Bernie Parent went to Philadelphia and Glenn Hall moved from Chicago to St. Louis. The NHL also increased it schedule having each team play 74 games, increased from 70 games. The top four teams from each division would make the playoffs, and you would have to win three seven game series to win the Cup.
When the 1967-1968 season started it was clear the original six teams were still by far the class of the league. The Montreal Canadians won the regular season title and ended up facing the St. Louis Blues in the Stanley Cup Final. Montreal easily beat St. Louis in four games to claim Lord Stanley’s Cup. The Chicago Blackhawks forward Stan Mikita led the league with 87 points and claimed Most Valuable Player honors, Rogatien Vachon and Gump Worsley of Montreal split the best goalie honor and Bobby Hull led the league with 44 goals. The Oakland Seals (California Seals) were the worst team in league finishing with only 15 wins and missed the playoffs by 22 points.
In the 1967 season a young defenseman from Boston named Bobby Orr won the Calder Trophy (top Rookie), but in the 1968 season you really saw what he was going to become. He won his first Norris Trophy (top defenseman) and he would go on to win eight straight Norris’. Orr’s skill and talent would go on to change the game for ever, and is widely considered the best defenseman in NHL history. He was faster and stronger then most NHL players and he used those skills to score the famous Cup winning goal in 1970.
The Original NHL expansion in 1967-1968 expansion was a success for the league. Four of the franchises still play in their original locations Philadelphia, Los Angeles, St. Louis and Pittsburgh. The Philadelphia Flyers won the first Cup from an expansion team in 1974 and once again in 1975 led by forward Bobby Clarke and goalie Bernie Parent. Philadelphia has become one of the best hockey markets in the world, with devoted fans who love their tough Flyers.
In 1970 the NHL expanded again and added the Vancouver Canucks and the Buffalo Sabres. The expansion continues in 1972-1973 adding the Atlanta Flames and the New York Islanders and once again in 1974-1975 adding the Kansas City Scouts and the Washington Capitols. By this time some of the franchises were having troubles and would be relocated. The league now had 18 teams located all over North America, but not all the locations were selected well. The California Golden Seals had to move to Cleveland and Kansas City had to move to Colorado. Even after the move the original California franchise, that was now in Cleveland was forced to merge with the North Stars in Minnesota. The 70′s was a turbulent time for the NHL, lots of new teams and current teams finding new locations.
The 1970′s were ruled by the Montreal Canadian’s dynasty, Montreal won multiple cups. Led by exciting forward Guy Lafleur, defenseman Larry Robinson and solid goaltending by Ken Dryden. Lafleur was a first overall pick by the Canadians and played his first season in the 1971-1972 season. By the 1974 season Guy had become one of the if not the best player in the NHL and was a fan favorite at the infamous Montreal Forum. In the 1974-1975 season Lafleur almost doubled his career high in points in a season recording over 50 goals and 100 points, he would go on repeat those numbers for the next 5 years. For six straight years Guy was on top and leading the best team in the NHL, on his way to becoming the highest scoring player in Canadians history. Marcel Dionne was another player who was on top of his game in the 70′s, playing with both the Red Wings and the Kings he scored 40 plus goals six times in the decade. Unlike Lafleur, Dionne never had the team success with Los Angeles or Detroit.
In 1967 the NHL decided to expand and really has never stopped since. The decision to put 6 teams in to the league in one season was controversial, but ultimately successful. Four of those original six expansion franchises exist in their original form. The NHL continued to expand to its original state, with some great moves and some moves that didn’t work out. The truth of the matter is that if the NHL doesn’t expand in the 60′s we will never know what would have happened, but you can be assured the league benefitted from it. The expansion years caused a changing of the guard in the NHL, new owners, new players and eventually the need for European players.