The Rise of the “Non-traditional” Hockey Market

Reggie Leach of the California Seals, one of the first non-traditional hockey markets, skates the puck.
Canadian hockey player Reggie Leach of the California Seals skates with the puck during a road game at Madison Square Garden, New York, New York, early 1970s. (Photo by Melchior DiGiacomo/Getty Images)

Since the game started, ice hockey has been a sport generally known for being located in cold-weather areas. A place to escape the harsh winters and brutal summers while staying active. Since the beginning of the NHL, ice hockey couldn’t spell S-o-u-t-h, and they wouldn’t be able to anytime soon. The first trace of ‘non-traditional’ hockey teams came in the 1967 NHL Expansion. This saw six teams introduced into the NHL, including the Los Angeles Kings, St. Louis Blues, and California Seals, all three bearing the aforementioned title. In 1991, the San Jose Sharks also joined the league and the group of out-of-the-box markets.

Between 1992 and 2017, six more “non-traditional” hockey teams were founded. The Tampa Bay Lightning, The Mighty Ducks of Anaheim (now the Anaheim Ducks), Florida Panthers, Nashville Predators, Atlanta Thrashers (folded and became the Winnipeg Jets), and the Vegas Golden Knights. All establishing themselves at different time periods 13 teams have won the Stanley Cup since 1999. Six of those teams have been from “non-traditional” hockey markets.

Rise of the “Non-Traditional” Hockey Market

Non-traditional can be defined as not adhering to past practices or conventions. Ice hockey is a “cold-weather” state sport, it has been looked at this way for years. Now, with help from technology the world has been able to shrink for us. Currently, 11 NHL franchises are located in what is considered “non-traditional” markets for ice hockey.

In total, nine teams fit the ‘non-traditional hockey’ category. This is for a variety of reasons, whether it be a lack of interest from their city over their history, like with the Blues, or simply being located in ‘non-traditional’ hockey locales, like the three California-based teams. Still, these teams have managed to impress the league nonetheless. Today, we’ll highlight five of those nine.

St. Louis Blues

As part of the 1967 NHL expansion draft, the Blues were able to start their history off with a bang. In each of their first three seasons, the Blues raced to the Stanley Cup Finals. Unfortunately, they weren’t ever able to seal the deal. That does not mean this Blues organization is to be overlooked. The St. Louis Blues have made the playoffs 42 times, the most appearances of any team that is not apart of the Original Six. While this number is impressive, the Blues couldn’t seem to finish. After what seemed like ages of playoff disappointment, the Blues finally made their fans proud, winning the Stanley Cup last season.

Nashville Predators

While there isn’t as much playoff history with the Predators, they have been a household name in the Central Division as of late. Founded in 1998, the Predators have made the playoffs 12 out of their 20 seasons making it as far as the Stanley Cup Final in 2017. The following year the team was awarded its first President’s trophy in history. The Predators haven’t been able to etch their names in the Stanley Cup just yet but with an addition like Matt Duchene to an established cup contending team, the sky is the limit. The Predators will also be facing off against the Dallas Stars in the 2020 Winter Classic, Located in Texas.

Tampa Bay Lightning

The Lightning are another great example. They have been Cup contenders in recent history, making the playoffs in six of the last nine seasons. They haven’t won the Stanley Cup since 2004 and are long overdue. The Lightning had one of the most successful teams ever last season, tying the record for most wins in one NHL season. With the additions of Kevin Shattenkirk and Pat Maroon, the Lightning are looking to add another banner to their rafters next season.

Vegas Golden Knights

The NHL’s 31st team was founded in 2017. They’ve made the playoffs both years they have been around and won the 2018 Western Conference Championship. The Vegas Golden Knights have rooted themselves in the hearts of the Las Vegas population. They have created one of the most exciting atmospheres in all of hockey and built a cup contending team all within two seasons. A for sure favorite in the Western Conference this year as well.

Los Angeles Kings

Even though at one point the Kings had the greatest player ever in Wayne Gretzky, Los Angeles is still a “non-traditional” market. They’ve been able to make a name for themselves throughout the years, though. Whether it is from names like The Great One, Marcel Dionne, Marty McSorleyor Jonathan QuickThe Kings have been the focal point of Southern California hockey. Adding to their reputation are two Stanley Cups, in 2012 & 2014. The Kings have been the focal point of Southern California hockey for some time now.

Other “Non-Traditional” Teams

Continuing the list above are three “non-traditional” teams that have won the Stanley Cup in the past. The Dallas Stars, who won the cup in 1999, The Carolina Hurricanes were 2006 Stanley Cup Champions, and the Anaheim Ducks won the 2007 Stanley Cup.  Although these teams may all currently be trending in different directions, they still come from a place you wouldn’t expect. Following that, the San Jose Sharks with six division titles. Even more impressive, the Sharks have made the playoffs 21 out of their 27 seasons.

With all of these successful teams, there needs someone on the losing side. Two more teams with not as much cup success and a young core ready to take their next step are the Florida Panthers and Arizona Coyotes, rounding-off the list of “non-traditional” teams. Some of these teams have had more success than others but they all have been able to do the same thing, expand the world of ice hockey in North America.

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