Saturday, December 5, 2009

The Second Six

The Original Six is back in style once again - you have Montreal celebrating their 100th season, the Blackhawks resurgence has been one of the top stories in hockey, everybody seems to be waiting on pins and needles to see what Brian Burke is going to do to fix the Maple Leafs...

Yet, let's not forget the Second Six.

Up until 1967 the NHL was a small - very, small - exclusive club. Just six teams. The smallest of any big time sports league. Then, they decided to do the unthinkable and expand. The number of teams doubled and the game moved west.

With the Blues in town today for a game between two of the Second Six, it seemed like a good time to review a little history.

How it came to be - the entire story of the '67 expansion would be a long one. In brief, a few owners had been pushing for adding teams to the NHL in the mid-'60s but were being met with resistance. However, the rival WHL was expanding into West Coast markets and was now threatening the NHL's ability to secure a TV contract. Specifically, in 1965 the NHL was told that without expansion they wouldn't be getting a TV deal going forward. The process began, with the league receiving 14 bids - including FIVE from Los Angeles based groups. In the end, six cities were chosen - Los Angeles, St. Louis, Philadelphia, Minnesota, Pittsburgh and Oakland.

The Second Six were placed in their own division, you know to keep the "bad" away from the "good". It's like when the new kid comes into a classroom and they make him sit at the back of the room by himself. St Louis got out of the gate quickly, going to the finals three straight years (and being swept all three times - should we call that a St Louis hat trick?). However, they never won the Cup, nor have they been back to the finals since.

But long before the teams started playing each other there was the draft. Dean Lombardi and many GMs before him have talked about the need to build a team from the net out. It's true now and it must have been true back then too. On June 6, 1967 the expansion draft was held - officially creating the Second Six, as they now had players to call their own. LA had the first pick, they took a goalie. Then, the next 11 picks were all goalies. Thus, each team had taken two netminders before the first skater was ever selected. (note: I'll have more on this in an upcoming article on the draft.)

As the years went by a few changes took place with some of the Second Six teams. The California (Oakland) Seals went through a number of name changes, relocated to Cleveland in '76 and eventually folded in '78 (merging with fellow expansion team, the Minnesota North Stars). Of course, Minnesota left their original home too, moving to Dallas in 1993.

Six Stanley Cups have been won by the Second Six. And if the Cup is the ultimate measure of success, Pittsburgh would be the most successful of the bunch. Their three Cups beats Philly's two and the lone cup won by Dallas. The Flyers won their cups first though, going back to back in '74 and '75. Additionally, the Flyers have been to the most Conference finals (14), the most Stanley Cup finals (8) and have the best winning percentage (.578) of all six teams.

As for the Kings...well, they've been to the Stanley Cup finals just once - the magical season of '93. LA has played 644 games against the other surviving Second Six teams (ignoring the defunct California Seals). They have the most wins against Dallas and Pittsburgh, tied at 70.

Back to the present...

When the Kings and Blues square off at Staples Center today it will be the second match up of the season between the two Second Six teams. LA won the first game back in October by a score of 2-1. Two coach Murrays - Andy and Terry (no relation) - will be looking to guide their clubs to a victory and another two points.

In my best Vin Scully voice "...and the deuces are wild!"


picture courtesy of

For the stat heads out there, here's a look at how the Kings have fared all-time vs. the other four surviving teams:
Kings vs. Stars: 70-91-32 (wins-losses-ties)
Kings vs. Penguins: 70-57-18
Kings vs Blues: 63-87-23
Kings vs. Flyers: 38-80-15

note: record vs. Stars includes Minnesota and Dallas, does not include stats from teams merged into the franchise (i.e. California and Cleveland).

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