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NHL Original Six: Please Quit Bragging

Good job on getting there first, nerds.

Good job on getting there first, nerds.

Even if you’re not a hockey fan, the term “Original Six” is pretty self-explanatory. Not that there aren’t nuances to the game, but it can best be described as a punch to the face. The term is a reference to the NHL’s original six teams.

What the moniker lacks in creativity, it more than makes up for in irrelevancy and repetition.

The Original Six includes the: Toronto Maple Leafs, Montreal Canadiens, Boston Bruins, Chicago Blackhawks, Detroit Red Wings, and New York Rangers. They were the only teams in the NHL for over 20 years before the league’s expansion in 1967.

Although that conveniently disregards the fact that the NHL officially came into existence in 1917, which predates the Original Six by 25 years. A number of teams disappeared for reasons related to The Great Depression and World War II, resulting in a substantial league contraction.

Existing in a supposed professional sports league of just six teams for decades with little to no interest from the outside world? That doesn’t sound like much of an accomplishment—unless you’re the sort of person who brags about showing up first to a party.

Who the heck would brag about showing up first to a party?

Especially when they weren’t even the first first to arrive. It’s more like bragging about being first to a party by default because a bunch of people left before the rest of the guests arrived. Even though all those guests know about the people that left before they got there because some of their names are etched on a giant silver cup, which is the reason they came to the party in the first place.

Well, apparently fans in each of those cities and NHL writers and analysts across North America are who brags about that sort of thing. Every time two of those teams face off, the fact that it’s an Original Six matchup is a talking point that seems to be handed down from the league office on a broken record.

A toast to accidentally stumbling into history.

A toast to accidentally stumbling into history.

The repetition really ramps up to an intolerable degree during the playoffs because an Original Six matchup could mean as many as seven whole games of Original Six hockey all in a row. It would be less mind-numbing if it was something that didn’t happen a couple times a week in the six months leading up to the playoffs.

Unfortunately, it does. It really really does.

This whole “issue” probably sounds pretty nitpicky to the most casual of hockey fans, non-hockey fans, and particularly to fans of the Original Six. People are prone to differing opinions and levels of interest in any given subject. Which is fine.

But there are serious fans of 24 of the other teams in the NHL who are sick of being excluded by the popular crowd. Or being treated like the proverbial red-headed stepchild. They’re sick of being considered party crashers preventing an Original Six meeting in the Stanley Cup Finals.

All professional sports leagues have their traditions and their roots. History doesn’t detract from the game—it enhances it—as long as it’s not being excessively espoused at the expense 80 percent of the rest of the league.

And the repetition of the obvious regard for Original Six matchups does come at expense at the rest of the league. Since 1995 nine of the Stanley Cup champions have been from that other category. Six have been from the Original Six—four of which were the Red Wings, so it’s more like 9-3.

Either way, it’s a pretty impressive record for the “in” crowd. Despite having a few decades head start, the achievements of the franchises within the beloved Original Six are fully recognized by hockey fans without prejudice. Meaning there’s no need to ram it down their throats.

They get it. I get it. The Original Six teams in the NHL are special. But if everyone else gets it, who are they still trying to convince?

The great Teddy Roosevelt once said “Speak softly and carry a big stick.”

The Original Six already have a big stick.

So when is everyone going to pipe down about it already?

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