You'd be hard pressed to find a country more dedicated to a sport than Canadians are to hockey.
However, compared to the entire National Hockey League, there are very few teams that are from Canada, despite the NHL being founded with Canadian Teams and 33% of the Original Six being from Canada.
Why? Primarily the population and lack of major cities. However, the Canadian NHL teams have some of the strongest support in terms of sports franchises on the planet.
Table of Contents
How many Canadian teams are in the NHL?
There are currently seven teams in the NHL located in Canada.
- Edmonton Oilers
- Calgary Flames
- Vancouver Canucks
- Toronto Maple Leafs
- Ottawa Senators
- Winnipeg Jets
- Montreal Canadiens
Edmonton Oilers (First season 1979-1980)
The Edmonton Oilers were originally founded as a professional hockey team in the World Hockey Association. The WHA was a rival league to the National Hockey League, and the team was originally known as the Alberta Oilers, as they played their games in both Calgary and Edmonton.
The Oilers are well known for having quite possibly one of the greatest dynasties in NHL history.
In fact, the Stanley Cup Winning 1984-1985 Edmonton Oilers have been labelled the greatest NHL team in the history of the game.
That 84/85 team included the likes of Wayne Gretzky, Mark Messier, Jarri Kurri, Glenn Anderson, Paul Coffey, Grant Fuhr, and several other of the best players in the game at the time. In fact, they are said to have one of the best NHL lines of all time.
The Oilers would go on to win 5 Stanley Cups in the span of 7 seasons, winning their first in the 83/84 season and their final one in the 89/90 season.
The Oilers struggled in the late 90's and early 2000's before making a surprise Stanley Cup run in 2006, led by all-star and likely Hall of Fame defenseman Chris Pronger. From that point on, the team struggled extensively, missing the playoffs for eleven consecutive seasons.
During this time period, the Oilers assembled a multitude of high draft picks, including superstars and arguably the two best players in the National Hockey League, Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl.
The team has now established itself as one of the premiere teams in the league, frequently finishing inside the top ten in the standings.
Facts you probably didn't know about the Edmonton Oilers
- The Edmonton Oilers were the first team to ever win 5 Stanley Cups in a 7 year timeframe.
- The Oilers first ever mascot, Hunter the Lynx, was named after Wild Bill Hunter, who was the original owner and founder of the team in 1972. This is why you will see the mascot wear 72 on its jersey.
- Rogers Place, the Oilers brand new hockey stadium, has a jumbotron that measures 46 feet wide by 46 feet tall. In total, it weights over 90,000 pounds and is the largest in the NHL.
- The Edmonton Oilers were originally going to be named the Albinos, named after the frigid temperatures in the winter time. However, Bill Hunter changed his mind after seeing a truck with an oil drilling logo on it.
Calgary Flames (First season 1980-1981)
The Calgary Flames originally came into the league as the Atlanta Flames in 1972-73. The team played eight years in Atlanta prior to moving to Calgary due to the lack of interest in the team.
Atlanta would get yet another hockey team in 1999 when the Atlanta Thrashers entered the league as an expansion team. However, that's a story for another portion of this article.
The Flames first decade in the league was arguably their most succesful one. However, much of the success, including the team's single Stanley Cup victory in 1989, came in the latter half of the decade.
The 1980's Flames team featured several of the best players in the game at that time. Superstar Lanny Mcdonald, Al MacInnis, Joe Mullen, Doug Gilmour, and goaltender Mike Vernon were prominent features of the Flames core.
The team won two Presidents Trophies, given to the best team in the NHL during the regular season, one in 1988-89 and another in 1989-90. It made two Stanley Cup final appearances in the 1980s, one in 1986 and the other in 1989. More recently, the team went to the Stanley Cup final in 2004, facing off against the Tampa Bay Lighting in the last season prior the the NHL establishing a salary cap.
Because both the Calgary Flames and Edmonton Oilers play in Alberta, Canada, the rivalry between the two teams became quite intense. The most notable moment for the Calgary Flames the 1985-1986 series against the Edmonton Oilers, in which the Oilers Steve Smith hit his own goaltender and put the puck into his own net.
This would end up being the deciding goal in the series and Calgary would move on.
Today, the team features several top tier NHL players, including Jonathan Huberdeau, Nazem Kadri, Mikael Backlund, and Jacob Markstrom.
Expected to be one of the best teams in the league in the 2022-2023 NHL season, the Flames struggled throughout the duration of the season, and at the time of writing this article are not expected to make the playoffs.
Facts you probably didn't know about the Calgary Flames
- During the Flames 2004 Stanley Cup Final run, the team won an astonishing 5 straight games when facing elimination. The Flames eventually lost the cup to the Tampa Bay Lightning after a controversial goal was waved off in Game 6 of the finals.
- The Flames mascot is a dog called Harvey The Hound. During the Flames and Oilers rivalry, Harvey is well known for taunting Oilers then coach Craig Mctavish. Mctavish would go on to pull the Dog's long tongue out from his mouth during a game.
- The Flames kept their name after being moved from Atlanta. They were named the Flames in Atlanta due to its historic association with the Civil War and the burning of the city.
- In the late 1990s, the Flames played a game against the San Jose Sharks in Tokyo, Japan
Vancouver Canucks (First season 1970-1971)
The Vancouver Canucks entered the NHL as an expansion team in the early 1970s, accompanied by the Buffalo Sabres.
Although the Vancouver Canucks have never won a Stanley Cup, they have made numerous appearances in the finals, including the 1982, 1994, and 2011 seasons. The team was swept by the New York Islanders in 1982 and lost in seven games to the New York Rangers and Boston Bruins in 1994 and 2011, respectively.
The team featured arguably the most prominent brothers in the game, Daniel and Henrick Sedin. The two were identical twins, and in the 1999 NHL Entry Draft the Canucks then General Manager Brian Burke traded up to draft Daniel at second overall and Henrick at third.
Along with being identical twins, the two would go on to post nearly identical careers as well, both cracking 1300 games played and 1000+ points. The one distinct difference however was that Daniel was known as more of a goal scorer while Henrik was a playmaker.
As mentioned, the Canucks have no Stanley Cups. In fact, they have been given the title of the oldest NHL team without a cup, as the St Louis Blues managed to end their drought in 2019. However, that is not to say the Canucks have not been successful. They just simply haven't been able to close the deal in the finals.
Outside of the Sedins, the Canucks most notable duo would be Todd Bertuzzi and Markus Naslund, who were dominant for the team in the early 2000's when the Sedins were just entering the league.
Today, the franchise is relying on budding superstars Elias Pettersson, Thatcher Demko, and Quinn Hughes to propel them back to the Stanley Cup finals again.
From thereon out, Vancouver primarily held minor league hockey teams before building a new arena in the late 1960's.
Facts you probably didn't know about the Vancouver Canucks
- Todd Bertuzzi, considered one of the best power forwards in the NHL at the time, assaulted and ended the career of Steve Moore in 2004. He would plead guilty to criminal assault causing bodily harm.
- The origins of the Canucks date back long before their NHL debut. They started in 1911 as the Vancouver Millionaires in the Pacific Coast Hockey Association, which did end up winning a Stanley Cup against the Ottawa Senators.
- Eventually the Millionaires would be absorbed into the Western Canada Hockey League and folded in 1926.
Toronto Maple Leafs (First Season 1917-1918)
The Toronto Maple Leafs are one of the most prominent NHL franchises in history. An Original Six team founded in 1917 in the 1919-1920 and for the next eight seasons they were called the St Patricks prior to going to the Maple Leafs.
The other Original Six teams that comprised the National Hockey League included the New York Rangers, Boston Bruins, Montreal Canadiens (more on them later), Detroit Red Wings, and Chicago Blackhawks.
The Leafs have the second most Stanley Cups in history with a total of 13. Their last Stanley Cup came in 1967, when they eliminated the Montreal Canadiens. They currently hold the longest active drought in the National Hockey League when it comes to winning the Stanley Cup.
The Maple Leafs and Canadiens long storied rivalry is arguably one of the most heated in professional sports. Prior to the teams meeting in the 2021 playoffs in the first round, they hadn't played each other since the late 1970s.
The franchise is home to some of the best players to ever play the game. This is evident by the fact the Leafs have retired a total of 18 jersey numbers over the years, including the likes of Tim Horton, Johnny Bower, King Clancy, Doug Gilmour, David Keon, Borje Salming, and Mats Sundin.
The Maple Leafs are one of the most expensive franchises in the National Hockey League, valued at over $2B, and the MLSE, or Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment, owns numerous teams in different leagues, including the Toronto Raptors of the NBA, and the Toronto Marlies of the American Hockey League, the NHLs farm league.
Today, the team is full of talent, containing superstars Auston Matthews, John Tavares, William Nylander and Morgan Rielly. The Leafs are routinely near the top of the standings in one of the hardest divisions in the National Hockey League.
Facts you probably didn't know about the Toronto Maple Leafs
- The Maple Leafs were part of the first ever NHL game to be travelled to by air. In 1935, New York Rangers president John Hammond decided the teams best method of travel to a game versus the Maple Leafs was by plane.
- The founder of Tim Horton's, a popular Canadian coffee and breakfast food restaurant was founded by Tim Horton, who played for the Leafs from 1949 to 1971.
- The Leafs have retired a total of 18 numbers, tied with the Montreal Canadiens for the most in NHL history.
- The Maple Leafs were originally called the Toronto Arenas when they were founded in 1917. They changed their name to the St. Patricks in 1919, before becoming the Maple Leafs in 1927.
Montreal Canadiens (First season 1909)
The Montreal Canadiens debuted in 1909, making them the oldest team ever in the National Hockey League. Not only are they the oldest team in the National Hockey League, but one of the oldest in all of professional sports.
And with over 24 Stanley Cups in their history, you could argue they are one of the most successful sports franchises in history as well. The team is the only original six franchise to have formed prior to the NHLs inception in 1917.
The iconic logo features a red C wrapped around a white H. It was a common misconception that the H inside of the logo meant "Les Habitants", referring to French settlers. However, the H simply stands for Hockey, while the C stands for Canadiens (Club de Hockey Canadien).
The team is known for having some of the best NHL players in history, including Jacques Plante, Jean Beliveau, Guy Lapointe, Maurice Richard, Guy Lafleur, and Patrick Roy.
The Candadiens are the only team in NHL history to win the Stanley Cup five straight times, defeating the Maple Leafs in 1960 to claim the record. They would also go on to win five more Stanley Cups from 1973 to 1979. Their dynasty of the mid to late seventies was snuffed out by a dominant New York Islanders team that would claim four Stanley Cups in the 1980s.
The team made a surprise run to the Stanley Cup Final in the 2022 NHL season that featured the Canadian Division. However, they would fall short against the Tampa Bay Lightning.
The Canadiens are very much in the midst of a rebuild. Their star centerman Nick Suzuki is the face of the franchise, however many shouldn't discount players like Kirby Dach and Sam Montembeault from making an impact.
The Canadiens are one of the most valuable franchises in the National Hockey League, coming in at just under $2B.
Facts you probably didn't know about the Montreal Canadiens
- Although people from Canada are called Canadians, Montreal named the team after the French word Canadiens, which refers to Canadian-French settlers.
- The team has the propensity to hire French Canadian, particularly Quebec-born coaches. There is an unwritten rule in Montreal that the coach must be able to speak French.
- The Montreal Canadiens have had a total of 31 players captain the team since their inception, with the most recent being Nick Suzuki.
Ottawa Senators (First season 1992-1993)
The original Ottawa Senators date back to the early 1900s where the team ended up winning 11 Stanley Cup championships. However, the team folded due to financial losses and the franchise moved to St Louis in 1934, becoming the St Louis Eagles. The city would go on a 58 year hiatus, before returning to Ottawa in 1992.
The modern day Ottawa Senators came into the National Hockey League as an expansion team in 1992 along with the Tampa Bay Lightning.
The teams first selection in the 1992 expansion draft was goaltender Peter Sidorkiewicz, who would go on to play only one season for the Senators.
The modern day Senators have no cups, however the team came very close in the 2007 Stanley Cup finals, losing to the Anaheim Ducks in five games. The Senators were one of the best teams in the league in the early to mid 2000s, winning several division titles, a Presidents Trophy, and the aforementioned Stanley Cup final appearance.
During that period, the Senators were home to multiple NHL superstars, including Dany Heatley, Daniel Alfredsson, Jason Spezza, defenseman Wade Redden, and dominant goaltender Dominik Hasek.
Although the Senators went through a period of mediocrity, making the playoffs only two times from 2014-2022, they're in the midst of a rebuild and a turnaround. The team is home to some of the best young superstars in the league, including Brady Tkachuk, Tim Stutzle, Thomas Chabot, and Alex DeBrincat.
The teams logo is the head of a Roman general, who would have been a member of the Senate of the Roman Empire.
Facts you probably didn't know about the Ottawa Senators
- The Senators are actually one of the oldest teams in professional hockey, being founded in 1883. However as mentioned the current Senators were formed in 1992 after the team was forced to move to St Louis to pay off debts in 1934.
- The Ottawa Senators retired tough guy Chris Neil's number 25 in 2023. Chris Neil had racked up over 2500 penalty minutes in his 1000+ games in the NHL, all with the Senators.
- After moving to St Louis in 1934, the team only made it once season prior to folding.
Winnipeg Jets (First season 1979-1980)
The Winnipeg Jets were one of the original founding franchises of the World Hockey Association (WHA). However, after most of the league had folded by the late 1970s, they were absorbed into the NHL along with the Edmonton Oilers, Quebec Nordiques, and Hartford Whalers.
The original Winnipeg Jets would play their last game in the National Hockey League in 1996 before being moved to Phoenix and being rebranded as the Phoenix Coyotes, now the Arizona Coyotes.
The team was moved due to several financial issues. Fast forward to 1999, the Atlanta Thrashers were awarded an NHL expansion franchise. Why is this significant? Well, the Thrashers, which was the second chance franchise the NHL had awarded Atlanta, failed yet again.
The team had exceptional difficulty drawing fans into games, primarily because they had made the playoffs once in their entire tenure in Atlanta.
From there, the NHL decided to give Winnipeg its second chance, and the modern day Winnipeg Jets, featuring a more up to date rounded logo of a jet and maple leaf, played their first game in 2011. The return was so highly anticipated that in order to get into the arena for their home opener in 2011 were selling for upwards of $1700.
Although the Jets do not have a Stanley Cup, the team is home to some notable NHL superstars including Bobby Hull, Dale Hawerchuk, Randy Carlyle, Thomas Steen, and Teemu Selanne. In fact, Teemu Selanne holds the all-time record for goals scored by a rookie with 76 in 1979.
The roster today features a plethora of high level NHL talent, including Mark Scheifele, Nikolaj Ehlers, Blake Wheeler, Kyle Connor, Josh Morrissey, and Connor Hellebuyck.
If there's one thing for certain, it's that it seems like the second attempt of an NHL franchise in Winnipeg has been an outright success, as its loyal fans are dedicated to making sure the team stays in Winnipeg.
Facts you probably didn't know about the Winnipeg Jets
- When the team started season seat sales, they dubbed it the "Drive to 13,000" in an attempt to get 13,000 season seat holders. It took all of 17 minutes to sell out of those seasons seats, and the team had to close the season seat waiting list in just two hours after amassing more than 8,000 entrants.
- The franchise was debating using the name Falcons. However, they decided to keep the team the Jets because of the fact Atlanta had an NFL team named the Falcons.
- The original Winnipeg Jets gave instant credibility to the World Hockey Association at the time, signing Bobby Hull, one of the best players in the NHL at the time, to a ten year deal.
- At the time, this was the largest contract given out to an athlete in North America, with Bobby Hull making $1.5M.
How many former Canadian NHL teams are there?
There have been a total of two NHL franchises in the modern era that have failed in Canada. One being the Winnipeg Jets, which we highlighted above. They eventually moved back to Winnipeg in 2011 and have been a successful franchise since.
The other franchise, and one that has not returned, would be the Quebec Nordiques. The franchise, which included superstars such as Joe Sakic, Peter Forsberg, Owen Nolan and Wendel Clark, was moved to Denver Colorado and became the Colorado Avalanche in 1995.
Unlike Winnipeg, Quebec has not been successful in its attempts to acquire an NHL franchise for the second time. There appears to be no interest from the NHL in returning, and an addition of the Seattle Kraken for the 2022-2023 NHL season may have put a final nail in that coffin.
When is the last time a Canadian team has won the Stanley cup?
Despite hockey being one of the most popular sports in Canada, and over 40% of the NHLs player base being Canadian, Canada has waited a very long time for the countries next Stanley Cup.
The last Canadian team to win a Stanley Cup was the Montreal Canadiens in 1993. However, this wasn't because of a lack of effort. The Calgary Flames, Ottawa Senators, Montreal Canadiens, Edmonton Oilers, and Vancouver Canucks have all made returns to the cup finals since, they just haven't been able to pull the trigger and win.
What divisions are the Canadian NHL teams in?
The Edmonton Oilers, Vancouver Canucks, and Calgary Flames play in the Pacific Division of the Western Conference.
The Montreal Canadiens and Toronto Maple Leafs play in the Atlantic Division of the Eastern Conference.
And finally, the Winnipeg Jets play in the Central Division.