Skip to Main Content
The Official Site of the Vegas Golden Knights


NHL Expansion History In Pictures

A photographic look back at some of the best images in the history of NHL Expansion

by Dan Marrazza @GoldenKnights /

In 1967 the NHL expanded from its Original 6 teams and doubled in size.

In came the Philadelphia Flyers, Pittsburgh Penguins, St. Louis Blues, Minnesota North Stars, Los Angeles Kings and California Seals, as did another era in the NHL's history.

The expansione era.

The Buffalo Sabres and Vancouver Canucks were shuttled in three years later. They were then joined by the Atlanta Flames and New York Islanders in 1972, the Kansas City Scouts and Washington Capitals and the Hartford Whalers, Quebec Nordiques, Winnipeg Jets and Edmonton Oilers joined the NHL from the World Hockey Association in 1979.

Nine more expansion teams followed in the 1990s, with the Golden Knights receiving the baton as the next part of the NHL's history of expansion this fall.

Below, we take a look back at the past 50 years of Expansion in images.

When the NHL expanded from six teams to 12, it was an entirely different era.

Players mostly didn't wear helmets, and for new teams like the St. Louis Blues (pictured below), the ability to acquire quality players was rare. This often put these clubs at the mercy of Original 6 opponents.



It was especially tough for goaltenders, who without the benefit of masks had to face down fearsome snipers like Gordie Howe (pictured below).



The challenge of being an expansion team didn't stop some of hockey's largest names from joining these new squads.

This was especially the case in the front office.

Below, the legendary Bernie "Boom Boom" Geoffrion, he who invented the slap shot, explains Expansion Draft strategy with his club - the 1972 Atlanta Flames - below

A young David Poile, now the general manager of the Nashville Predators, was then a junior staffer (bottom left) and is also pictured.



Despite the fact that most expansion teams struggled during their early years, the Philadelphia Flyers broke through in 1974 and became the first expansion team to win a championship.

The Flyers repeated in 1975, although Philadelphia hasn't won a championship since.



The influx of 12 new teams in a seven-year stretch forced the NHL to constantly reallign its divisions.

Below, then NHL president Clarence Campbell (right) explains the league's allignment heading into the 1974-75 season, when the Washington Capitals and Kansas City Scouts (now New Jersey Devils) entered the league.



One byproduct of having so many new teams enter the league were some questionable uniform decisions.

The California Seals, owned by Oakland A's owner Charlie Finley, went with white skates to match their owner's baseball team.

The Washington Capitals (pictured below) went with white pants upon their inception. Although the tendency for these pants to become dirty and stained by season's end led them to eventually switch to blue pants.



As the NHL expanded throughout the 1970s, a rival league, the World Hockey Association, established a presence in the North America sports scene.

The WHA introduced young stars such as Wayne Gretzky, Mark Messier and Mike Gartner to pro hockey. It also provided an oasis for veterans like Bobby Hull, Gordie Howe, Bernie Parent and Derek Sanderson.

But by the late part of the decade, the upstart league proved to be economically unsustainable.

Following its 1978-79 season, when the Winnipeg Jets won the final WHA championship (pictured below), Winnipeg, the Hartford Whalers, Edmonton Oilers and Quebec Nordiques all transitioned into the NHL as expansion teams.



Although the Colorado Rockies (formerly the Kansas City Scouts) relocated and became the New Jersey Devils in 1982, the NHL didn't expand during the 1980s.

In 1990, however, the league granted franchises to Ottawa and Tampa Bay.

Below, Phil Esposito, he who had the NHL record for goals in a season (76) before Wayne Gretzky, poses in the original home arena of the team he founded, the Tampa Bay Lightning.




Before the Lightning began playing in 1992-93, however, the San Jose Sharks came into the NHL in 1991.

Below, the first two draft picks in team history, Pat Falloon and Ray Whitney, sign autographis wearing San Jose's unmistakable teal jerseys.



Here, the owners of the Anaheim Mighty Ducks and Florida Panthers are pictured prior to their teams' entrance to the league in 1993.

We won't tell you which one is which, but we dare you to guess which one is the Mighty Ducks' owner.

Hint: He's wearing a Mickey Mouse tie.



In 1997, the Nashville Predators, Atlanta Thrashers, Columbus Blue Jackets and Minnesota Wild franchises were granted.

Minnesota, which losts its North Stars to Dallas four years before, was particularly excited to have a new team (pictured below, along with the founders of each of the four teams).

Nashville began play in 1998-99, Atlanta in 1999-00 and Columbus and Minnesota both started in 2000-01.



When the Minnesota Wild and Columbus Blue Jackets came into the league in 2000, a coin flip (pictured below) decided which team would pick third and which team would pick fourth in their inaugural Entry Draft.

The New York Islanders and Atlanta Thrashers, the league's bottom two teams the prior year, picked first and second.

The Wild took Marian Gaborik No. 3 overall, while the Blue Jackets took Rostislav Kleska No. 4.


View More