Detroit Red Wings and the Most Storied Franchises in the NHL
Being an Original Six team, the Detroit Red Wings have a long, rich history filled with tradition. From the throwing of Al the Octopus onto the ice to the success of the past two decades, Detroit has earned the title "Hockeytown" and also the respect of teams and players from around the world.
However, Detroit is not the only team with a tradition of winning and a strong fanbase. Some teams have struggled recently but have been extremely successful in the past and still have some of the most passionate fans in sport.
Here is a list of some of the most storied franchises in the history of the NHL.
Boston Bruins, Chicago Blackhawks, New York Rangers
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Between these three teams, they have a combined total of 14 Stanley Cups.
Being Original Six teams, they have a long history with many star players. Each of their stadiums, especially Madison Square Garden in New York and the United Center in Chicago, are among the most difficult rinks to play in for visiting teams.
The Bruins, Blackhawks and Rangers each have a strong following of loyal, patient fans who waited a long time for the Stanley Cup to return to their town. New York last won the trophy in 1994 after more than 50 years without bringing it to the Big Apple.
Boston and Chicago just ended their droughts after winning the past two Stanley Cups.
Bobby Hull, Bobby Orr and Brian Leetch are just three of the Hall of Famers who have all suited up for at least one of these teams.
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Of the four World Hockey Association teams to merge with the NHL in 1979, the Edmonton Oilers have been by far the most successful.
The Quebec Nordiques moved to Denver and became the Colorado Avalanche, the Winnipeg Jets, though now reincarnated, moved to Phoenix and became the Coyotes and the Hartford Whalers also went south to North Carolina and changed their name to the Hurricanes.
Edmonton, on the other hand, has remained steady and has become beloved by the people of the city.
Having won five Stanley Cups between 1984 and 1990, the Oilers’ dynasties left a strong impression in Edmonton which is still prevalent today.
Fans are still upset that former owner Peter Pocklington traded Wayne Gretzky to Los Angeles in 1988. Winning the Stanley Cup in 1990 without Gretzky was not enough for the passionate fans, as they feel the team could have won multiple championships had Pocklington kept Gretzky.
As a small market Canadian team, the Oilers typically fill their stadium, the Rexall Place, or at least come close each game. A surprise run to the Stanley Cup Finals in 2006 was welcomed in the city, but it has been difficult for management to attract star caliber players to sign with the team.
All Canadian teams are loved by the people of the city they represent, but the Edmonton Oilers have been the most successful behind the two Original Six Canadian teams.
Toronto Maple Leafs
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One of the more historically storied franchises in the NHL, the Toronto Maple Leafs have won 13 Stanley Cups, the second most of all teams in the league.
The Maple Leafs have 66 players inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame, which is located in the city, more than any other team. The Leaf inductees include Darryl Sittler, Red Kelly, Norm Ullman, Doug Gilmour and future Hall of Famer Mats Sundin.
More recently, the Leafs have struggled. Toronto has not won the Stanley Cup since 1967, the longest-active Cup drought in the NHL. 1967 was also the last time the Maple Leafs played in the Finals and was the final season of the Original Six era. The Leafs have also missed out on the playoffs each season since the 2004-2005 lockout.
Though the Maple Leafs have not enjoyed the success they did pre-expansion, their fans are still second to none. When the team played at Maple Leaf Gardens, tickets sold out every game from 1946 until their last game at the stadium in 1999.
Now at the Air Canada Centre, the Leafs are near the top of average attendance each year in the NHL. The waiting list for season tickets has over 1,000 names on it.
Even when playing on the road, the team has a strong following. Many snowbirds migrate to southern U.S. cities like Phoenix, Tampa Bay and Miami, which gives a good turnout of Toronto fans at away games.
In part because of the strong following for the team, Forbes ranks the Toronto Maple Leafs as the most valuable NHL franchise, estimated to be worth $521 million.
Through all the ups and downs, Maple Leaf fans have stood by their team, making Toronto one of the greatest hockey cities in the world.
Detroit Red Wings
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Another Original Six team, the Red Wings have won 11 Stanley Cups in the franchise’s history.
With the likes of Gordie Howe, Steve Yzerman, Terry Sawchuck and Nicklas Lidstrom, among a number of other Hall of Famers and future Hall of Famers, to have donned the winged wheel sweater, Detroit has its fair share of great hockey memories.
Since the Dead Wings Era ended in the 1980s, Detroit has been the model franchise of the NHL. Having made the playoffs each of the past 20 seasons, the Wings have played in the Stanley Cup Finals six times since 1995 and have taken home the trophy four times during that span.
Ever after the salary cap was implemented after the 2004-2005 lockout, Detroit has continued to win. The Red Wings scouts and general manager Ken Holland have done an extraordinary job drafting, picking Pavel Datsyuk with the 171st pick in 1998, Henrik Zetterberg a year later with the 210th selection and Johan Frazen in the third round of the 2004 draft.
Finishing near the top of the standings each year, the Wings are forced to find players that will contribute in the future without having a high pick.
Hockeytown is also home to arguably the most passionate hockey fans in the United States. Known for throwing an octopus on the ice during playoff games for good luck and singing along to Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believin,’” Detroit is annually towards the top of the league in attendance.
The octopus tradition dates back to the 1952 playoffs when the owner of a local fish market threw one of the sea creatures onto the ice for the first time. The eight legs of the octopus symbolized the eight wins that it took at the time to win the Stanley Cup.
The Red Wings swept both series that year, and even though the league has attempted to crush the tradition a number of times, the octopus throw still continues at Joe Louis Arena.
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Numbers don’t lie.
Montreal has won more Stanley Cups, more playoff appearances, more Stanley Cup Finals appearances, the highest win percentage and more division championships than any other team in the NHL.
Founded in 1909, the Canadiens are more than a hockey team to the people of Quebec. The club and the sport of hockey are entrenched as a significant part of French Canadian culture, so much so that current interim head coach Randy Cunneyworth has come under fire from fans and the Quebec government because he does not know how to speak French.
Fans called for boycotts, and the Quebec’s culture minister said she expected the front office to correct the situation. Cunneyworth is learning the language to appease French-speaking fans and show them that he would like to continue coaching the club.
The Montreal Expos of MLB and the Quebec Nordique’s left the province, and the Canadiens became the only professional team of the four major leagues of the USA and Canada. With those two teams not able to survive in Quebec, the Canadiens have consistently been at or near the top of the league in annual average attendance.
The Canadiens last hoisted Lord Stanley’s Cup in 1993, the last team north of the border to do so. The rafters at the Bell Centre, where the Habs play their home games, are filled with retired numbers and championship banners. Those retired numbers include Doug Harvey, Guy Lafleur, Patrick Roy and Maurice “Rocket” Richard, the first player to score 50 goals in 50 games.
The Montreal Canadiens are without a doubt the most storied franchise in the history of the NHL.