Major League Hockey Franchises

As you might have noticed, the prevous article dealt with the most travelled players. Apparently I should have defined what a franchise is in this article, and list what I considered to be franchises, but I didn't. Since this definition would probably be about half of the "normal" size of these articles, I had two options:

  1. Add the bit about franchises to the previous article, and then write this article about another topic, or
  2. Just write an article about franchises for this article, and have the time to get back to the stuff I was doing outside.

As you might have guessed, I chose the second option. So, here goes...

So, what is a franchise? Looking at the Winnipeg Jets of 1972-73 and the 2001-02 Phoenix Coyotes, I've lumped both instances of those teams under the same franchise. Why? The two teams in question are in different cities, have different nicknames, played in different leagues, have none of the same players, owners, managers, coaches, scouts, and probably even have none of the same staff. What makes these two teams part of the same franchise?

I remember that, in one of the philosophy classes that I took in university, the professor discussing "The Problem of Personal Identity". At a physical level, the individual cells in your body are continuously being replaced. After a while, all of the material in your body is replaced. So physically you are a completely different person than you were when you were seven years old (assuming that you are currently an adult or fairly close). On a mental level you've probably also changed completely from when you were seven years old - your thoughts are completely different, your interests are probably very dissimilar (okay, maybe you still like hockey, but you probably like it in a different way than you did then). So far, so good. In other words, you've completely changed from when you were, say, seven years old.

The problem is this: If I were to give you a photograph of you that was taken when you were seven years old and asked you who was in it, you would say that you were. But how can that be, since we've shown that you're a completely different person now compared to when you were seven? The ancient Greeks tackled this problem in the form of Theseus' Ship: The ancient Athenians had a ship that once belonged to the semi-legendary hero Theseus, and kept it in good repair, including replacing planks that had rotted. Eventually they had replaced all of the planks in the boat. So, is the boat still the same boat, or not? And if it isn't, what if you saved the rotted planks that were removed from the ship and reconstructed them in the pattern of the original ship? Would that ship be the same as Theseus' ship?

I won't get into a long philosophical discussion here (If you're interested, there's a link in the bibliography, but to summarise in one sentence, the key is that identity is transitive. So, if you're the same person at time a that you are at time b, and you're the same person at time b that you are at time c, then you're the same person at time a that you were at time c. Continuing this reasoning, it would be possible to show that you are the same person now that you were at seven years of age.

We can apply the same logic to franchises as we do with people. Therefore, the 2001-02 Phoenix Coyotes and 1972-73 Winnipeg Jets are the same franchise because the 1972-73 Winnipeg Jets are the same as the 1973-74 Winnipeg Jets, which are the same as the 1974-75 Winnipeg Jets, which are the same as... [25 steps or so skipped here] ... which are the same as the 2000-01 Phoenix Coyotes, which are the same as the 2001-02 Phoenix Coyotes. Whew!

The Complete List of Major League Franchises

When you apply this logic to the real world, there are some pitfalls. For example, what if a franchise folds, but another franchise with the same name appears in the same town next year, containing most of the same people? In such cases, I've generally felt that the requisite amount of continuity was present, and so counted the teams from both years as a single franchise. There are three cases like that below: The 1909-10/1910-11 Montreal Canadiens, the 1916-17/1917-18 Toronto Blueshirts/Arenas, and the 1975-76/1976-77 Minnesota Fighting Saints. In general, I've attempted to keep the idea of continuity in mind - if there seemed to be a sufficient degree of continuity, it's still the same franchise.

So here's the list! I've arranged it so that current NHL teams are at the top, and there's a list of defunct clubs from all leagues, in reverse order of when the league was last active.

Active NHL Franchises

Defunct NHL Franchises

Defunct WHA Franchises

Defunct PCHA/WCHL/WHL Franchises

Defunct NHA Franchises

Defunct ECHA Franchises

All of these franchises are covered in one of the "Defunct NHA Franchises" or "Defunct NHL Franchises" sections.

Notes About the List

  1. Team was founded before the dawn of Major League Professional hockey in 1908-09.
  2. Quebec Bulldogs played in the ill-fated CHA in 1909-10, but not in the NHA.

Writing this list out, I couldn't help thinking that the names of a lot of those defunct franchises are a lot more classier than most of the names of active franchises. It's hard to find anything less classier than "Mighty Ducks".

Anyway, there's the list. Wow, this turned out to be pretty close to the size of a "regular" article. I'm going outside now...


For questions or comments, please e-mail James Yolkowski.

This article is Copyright © 2002, James Yolkowski. You may reprint or reproduce this article, as long as this paragraph is also reproduced. The original article and others like it can be found at