The National Hockey League has plenty to celebrate next season. Not only is it the 100th anniversary of the league and the Toronto Maple Leafs, but it’s also the 50th anniversary of the six-team expansion of 1967 that transformed the league from a regional fancy into a national sporting presence. Plans for next season are already being leaked.
The Pittsburgh Penguins will hold a fan fest on Aug. 27 and 28. The Los Angeles Kings are planning a 35-foot monument for the Staples Center plaza, along with a special 50th anniversary jersey. The club also will wear past Kings jerseys during warm-ups at select games to benefit the Kings Care Foundation (they have plenty of options on the table, but our fingers are crossed for the infamous Burger King design). The Flyers will stage an alumni game against the Penguins, wear a 50th anniversary jersey and release a book tied to the event.
Each of these teams also expects to be involved in at least one major league event.
The Kings will host the 2017 NHL All-Star Game as the centerpiece of their year-long celebrations. The Blues seem to be the favorites to host the Winter Classic at Busch Stadium, the home of baseball’s St. Louis Cardinals, with the Chicago Blackhawks as their opponents. The Penguins and the Flyers also are expected to face off outdoors. They could, depending on the availability of Heinz Field, earn the Winter Classic, but it’s more likely that their meeting will be part of the Stadium Series. Philadelphia would host the rematch in 2018.
Four of the six 1967 teams—the Kings, Flyers, Penguins, and St. Louis Blues have kicked off their celebrations early with the release of their 50th anniversary logos this week:
But all the plans are still coming together, it’s unclear how the league will honor the two members of the Expansion Six that no longer exist.
The North Stars left Minnesota in 1993 to set up shop in Dallas, leaving the territory to be picked up in 2000 by the expansion Wild. The California Seals struggled through nine seasons on the West Coast before heading east in 1976 to become the Cleveland Barons. Two years later, that team merged with the North Stars, then un-merged in a complex transaction that saw owners George and Gordon Gund give up their stake in Minnesota in order to bring hockey back to the Bay Area with the expansion San Jose Sharks in 1991.
It’s possible all three of those current teams could get involved. A spokesperson for the Wild said the team is in contact with the NHL on potential initiatives that will be tied to the various anniversaries, but the club does have a bit of a head start. The combined alumni of the Wild and Stars will wear a North Stars-style jersey when they take on Chicago’s old timers as part of this year’s Stadium Series events on Feb. 20-21.
A Stars spokesperson said the team doesn’t have any firm plans in place yet, but it is having discussions on how to recognize the anniversary. The Sharks, meanwhile, have been busy with their own 25th anniversary season, but are looking into what might make sense for next year. “My gut is we will do something at some point,” a team spokesperson told SI.com.
Among the options said to be on the table: reunions of surviving members of those original teams; franchise history nights; banner raisings; more throwback jerseys and anniversary patches.
All of which would be welcome ... but the celebration won’t be complete until some team wears the white skates.
GALLERY: Fates of NHL Expansion Teams
The numbers game
• The Capitals are now the fastest team in NHL history to reach 40 wins in a season (53 games).
• On Thursday night against the Blackhawks, winger Patrick Eaves became only the second player in Stars/North Stars history to score a hat trick in the first period of a game. The other: Bill Goldsworthy on Dec. 11, 1973 vs. the Kings.
• Connor McDavid is the third rookie in Oilers history to have a five-point game. The others: Dave Lumley on Feb. 1, 1980 vs. Winnipeg and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (Nov. 19, 2011 vs. Chicago).
• With Valentine’s Day coming up, the good folks at Hockey By Design have come up with five love children spawned by hockey and heavy metal.
• Here they are: the perfect Valentine's Day cards for the Lightning fan who has stolen your heart.
• This Hall of Famer thinks Erik Karlsson is the clear choice for the Norris Trophy. Because of course he does.
• It was just another day for top prospect Mitch Marner ... and then this happened.
• Patrice Bergeron: Heart of a lion.
• This explains the real impact of the sinking Canadian dollar on the average NHL player.
• Here’s the latest sign of the massive popularity of the Chicago Blackhawks.
• Guy Gaudreau had a bit of advice for his son Johnny after the star forward was benched this week by the Calgary Flames.
• Finally, Ira Podell, a veteran hockey scribe who has spent years covering the Rangers and Islanders for the Associated Press, is going through a tough time after suffering a brain tumor and a stroke. If you've enjoyed his writing over the years and would like to help, please visit his GoFundMe page here.