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NHL First Began Play On This Date

(Flickr)

Today is the day in 1917 that what we know today as the National Hockey League began play with two games.

There were only five teams during that first season, all located in Canada — two of them in Montreal, the Canadiens and the Wanderers; the Ottawa Senators; the Quebec Bulldogs and the Toronto Arenas.

Both Montreal teams won those first two games, defeating Ottawa and Toronto, but the following month, both Montreal teams had to quit the rest of the season when the Montreal Arena burned down. So that left only three teams for that first season, and Toronto went on to win the league championship, then played the winner of the Pacific Coast League, beating the Vancouver Millionaires for the Stanley Cup.

The following year, the Montreal Canadiens won the league championship, but the Stanley Cup final against Seattle was suspended when a number of players came down with the Spanish flu. One of the players died.

The Boston Bruins became the first American team to join the league in 1924, and the league grew to as many as 10 teams before the Great Depression and World War II took their tolls.

The league was reduced to six teams for the 1942-43 season, and those teams — the Montreal Canadiens, Toronto Maple Leafs, Boston Bruins, New York Rangers, Detroit Red Wings and Chicago Blackhawks — stayed together for 25 years, becoming known as the Original Six, until the league added six more teams in 1967.

The NHL has players from 18 countries, the majority of them from Canada.

In the history of the Stanley Cup playoffs, only four games have ever reached a fifth overtime period. Two were decided in the sixth overtime.

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