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Jun 8, 2020

While we ruminate on what a potential resumption of the National Hockey League’s delayed 2020 regular season (and playoffs) might look like in the months ahead, we pause to look back at the rich, but altogether confounding history of the world’s premier pro hockey circuit with Down Goes Brown blog scribe and Athletic columnist Sean McIndoe (The Down Goes Brown History of the NHL: The World's Most Beautiful Sport, the World's Most Ridiculous League).

Over its often-illogical 103-year history, the NHL has proven to be – as the dust jacket to McIndoe’s loving, but irreverent book intimates – a league that often can't seem to get out of its own way:

“No matter how long you've been a hockey fan, you know that sinking feeling that maybe – just maybe – some of the people in charge here don't actually know what they're doing.  And at some point, you've probably wondered – has it always been this way? The short answer is yes.  As for the longer answer, well, that's this book.”

McIndoe helps us cheat-sheet through some of the league’s defining historical inflection points, including:

  • The myth of the “Original Six” – the hallowed group of supposedly foundational franchises cemented during WWII-era 1942 – that conveniently ignores 15 teams that preceded them in the league’s first 25 years of existence;
  • 1967’s “Great Expansion” – when the NHL doubled its franchise count from six to twelve, including pre-emptive strikes against the Western Hockey League with new teams in Los Angeles (Kings) and Oakland (Seals);
  • The 1979 “merger” with the pesky World Hockey Association – which absorbed only four of the challenger’s seven remaining clubs; AND
  • Comical expansion/relocation follies in Cleveland, Kansas City, Denver, and Atlanta (twice).

This week’s episode is sponsored by the Red Lightning Books imprint of Indiana University Press – who offer our listeners a FREE CHAPTER of pioneering sportswriter Diana K. Shah’s new memoir A Farewell to Arms, Legs and Jockstraps!