An Expert’s Guide To Choosing Which NHL Team To Support

An Expert’s Guide To Choosing Which NHL Team To Support

Hockey is a great sport. It has skill, speed, violence, incredible athleticism and high drama.

But if you’re a new hockey fan, you’re probably going to want to cheer for an NHL team to take that support to the next level.

If you live in an NHL city, it might be easy to choose which team to support. But if you don’t live in a hockey market — or don’t care to root, root, root for the home team — then it could be tricky.

That’s where we come in.

Here’s our foolproof guide on how to choose an NHL team to support.

Anaheim Ducks

Anaheim Ducks apparel
Anaheim Ducks apparel, due to the team’s unique eggplant and jade color scheme, was extraordinarily popular in the 1990s. [Image: Andrew Gardecki/Flickr, CC BY-NC-ND 2.0]

Established in: 1993

Stanley Cups won: 1 (2007)

Star players: Center Ryan Getzlaf, forward Rickard Rakell, Goalie John Gibson

All-time greats: Paul Kariya (1994-03), Teemu Selanne (1995-01), Ryan Getzlaf (2005-22), Scott Niedermayer (2005-10), Chris Pronger (2006-09)

You should support them if: You love 1990s nostalgia, particularly the Disney variety.

The Ducks, who were founded by Disney in response to the popularity of the “Mighty Ducks” movie franchise, play second fiddle to the Los Angeles Kings in that region.

They’re coming out of a rebuild with a budding crop of talented young players but still may be a few years from legitimate Stanley Cup contention.

Arizona Coyotes

Gila River Arena
The 2021-22 season could be the last for the Arizona Coyotes at Gila River Arena, their home in Glendale, Arizona since 2003. [Image: Wikimedia Commons]

Established in: 1996

Stanley Cups won: 0

Star players: Forward Phil Kessel, forward Clayton Keller, defenseman Jakub Chychrun

All-time greats: Keith Tkachuk (1996-01), Jeremy Roenick (1996-01)

You should support them if: You’re a schizophrenic sports fan who wouldn’t be affected if they moved.

The Coyotes, who moved to the southwest from Winnipeg in 1996, have been flirting with relocation for more than a decade at this point, which has also coincided with just one postseason appearance since 2012.

The 2021-22 season should be their last at Gila River Arena, meaning the team is essentially a free agent when this season ends.

Boston Bruins

Bobby Orr
Bobby Orr created thousands of new Boston Bruins fans with his spectacular skill and skating while also guiding the team to two championships in the 1970s. [Image: Aaron Frutman/Wikimedia Commons]

Established in: 1924

Stanley Cups won: 6 (1929, 1939, 1941, 1970, 1972, 2011)

Star players: Center Patrice Bergeron, forward Brad Marchand, forward Taylor Hall, defenseman Charlie McAvoy

All-time greats: Johnny Bucyk (1957-78), Bobby Orr (1966-76), Phil Esposito (1967-75), Raymond Bourque (1979-00), Cam Neely (1987-96), Joe Thornton (1997-05), Zdeno Chara (2006-20)

You should support them if: You’d love to support tradition.

The Bruins are arguably the most classic NHL team, with the legendary spoked B logo and support from across hockey-mad New England.

Orr created a generation of hockey fans with his smooth skating and incredible skill, but Neely carried the torch through his rugged and skilled play.

Modern-day stars like Chara, Bergeron and Marchand helped bring Boston back to the forefront, winning the Cup in 2011 and helping Boston reach the Stanley Cup final in 2013 and 2019 as well.

Buffalo Sabres

Jack Eichel - NHL player
Jack Eichel became the most recent Buffalo Sabres star to exit Western New York when he was traded to the Vegas Golden Knights on November 4, 2021. [Image: Lisa Gansky/Wikimedia Commons]

Established in: 1970

Stanley Cups won: 0

Star players: Forward Jeff Skinner, defenseman Rasmus Dahlin

All-time greats: Gilbert Perreault (1971-87), Phil Housley (1982-90), Dave Andreychuk (1982-93), Alex Mogilny (1989-95), Pat Lafontaine (1991-97), Dominik Hasek (1992-01)

You should support them if: You’re loyal and love a good project.

The Sabres have had some near-misses — Hasek carried them to the Stanley Cup final in 1999 and they went to the Eastern Conference final in consecutive years in 2006 and 2007 — but have the sport’s longest playoff drought and just traded captain and star center Jack Eichel in a rebuilding move.

Sabres fans are among the most loyal in hockey, although their patience is wearing thin.

Calgary Flames

 Calgary Flames
The Calgary Flames have played their home games at the Saddledome since 1983. [Image: Wikimedia Commons]

Established in: 1980

Stanley Cups won: 1 (1989)

Star players: Forward Johnny Gaudreau, forward Matthew Tkachuk, goalie Jacob Markstrom

All-time greats: Al MacInnis (1981-94), Lanny McDonald (1982-89), Joe Nieuwendyk (1986-95), Theo Fleury (1988-98), Jarome Iginla (1995-12), Miikka Kiprusoff (2003-13), Mark Giordano (2006-21)

You should support them if: You prefer the upstart in a rivalry.

The Flames have always played understudy to the tradition-laden Edmonton Oilers. The Flames have only gotten to the mountain’s summit once, 1989, yet annually go to battle with a competent and star-laden lineup.

For some reason, recent playoff success has been hard to come by as Calgary hasn’t advanced past the second round since its run to Game 7 of the Cup final in 2004.

Carolina Hurricanes

Rod Brind’Amour
Rod Brind’Amour helped the Hurricanes hoist the Stanley Cup as a player in 2006 and is hoping to win the trophy as Carolina’s coach. [Image: Wikimedia Commons]

Established in: 1997

Stanley Cups won: 1 (2006)

Star players: Center Sebastian Aho, forward Teuvo Teravainen, forward Jordan Staal, defenseman Jaccob Slavin, goalie Frederik Andersen

All-time greats: Ron Francis (1999-04), Rod Brind’Amour (2000-10) Eric Staal (2003-16), Cam Ward (2005-18)

You should support them if: You like your sports to be a little bit fun or fashion yourself a jerk.

The Hurricanes have had a run of relevance under coach Rod Brind’Amour and led by its loaded roster and creative marketing team that has leaned into its quirkiness.

Carolina, which moved from Hartford in 1997, has donned the legendary Hartford Whalers jersey at least one night every season since 2018-19, dubbed itself the “Bunch of Jerks” in response to now-disgraced hockey commentator Don Cherry’s complaints in 2019 and have participated in the arena-wide “Storm Surge” where they produce elaborate celebrations after home victories.

Chicago Blackhawks

Duncan Keith - Chicago Blackhawks
Duncan Keith won the Conn Smythe Trophy as the most valuable player of the playoffs when Chicago won its most recent championship in 2015. [Image: Lisa Gansky/Wikimedia Commons]

Established in: 1927

Stanley Cups won: 6 (1934, 1938, 1961, 2010, 2013, 2015)

Star players: Center Jonathan Toews, forward Patrick Kane, defenseman Seth Jones, goalie Marc-Andre Fleury

All-time greats: Bobby Hull (1957-72), Glenn Hall (1957-67), Stan Mikita (1958-80), Tony Esposito (1969-84), Doug Wilson (1977-91), Duncan Keith (2006-21), Marian Hossa (2009-17)

You should support them if: You like blue bloods and are not afraid to shield your eyes at times.

The Blackhawks are coming out of a dynastic decade where they won the Stanley Cup three times.

However, before that dynasty they were among the most irrelevant teams in the NHL, to the point where they were blacked out on local TV. Chicago had gone 49 years between championships and only won once in a 72-year stretch.

Now they’re headed back for a rebuild while also attempting to manage a scandal involving a sexual assault coverup that marred their 2010 title.

Colorado Avalanche

Joe Sakic - Colorado Avalanche
Joe Sakic was the first Colorado Avalanche player to lift the Stanley Cup and is hoping to build a championship team in the Rockies as team general manager. [Image: Håkan Dahlström/Flickr, CC BY 2.0]

Established in: 1995

Stanley Cups won: 2 (1996, 2001)

Star players: Center Nathan MacKinnon, forward Mikko Rantanen, forward Gabriel Landekog, defenseman Cale Makar

All-time greats: Joe Sakic (1995-09), Peter Forsberg (1995-04), Patrick Roy (1995-03), Raymond Bourque (2000-01), Rob Blake (2000-06)

You should support them if: You love speed and skill.

The Avalanche took the NHL by storm from the minute they moved west from Quebec City, claiming the Cup twice, reaching the Western Conference final six times in a seven-year stretch and developing one of the fiercest rivalries in league history with the Detroit Red Wings.

Colorado is back as the preseason favorite to win the Cup after reaching the playoffs each of the past three seasons.

Columbus Blue Jackets

Columbus Blue Jackets cannon
The Columbus Blue Jackets fire a cannon after goals scored during home games at Nationwide Arena. [Image: Wikimedia Commons]

Established in: 2000

Stanley Cups won: 0

Star players: Forward Boone Jenner, forward Max Domi, forward Patrik Laine, defenseman Zach Werenski, goalie Joonas Korpisalo

All-time greats: Rick Nash (2002-13), Sergei Bobrovsky (2012-19), Nick Foligno (2012-21)

You should support them if: You love the smell of smoke in the morning.

The Blue Jackets’ identity league-wide comes from the cannon the team blasts off after every home goal at Nationwide Arena.

It took Columbus nearly two decades to win a playoff round — it famously won its first postseason series against the dominant Tampa Bay Lightning — and is back to rebuilding after not renewing the contract of coach John Tortorella after the 2020-21 season.

Dallas Stars

Dallas stars
The Dallas Stars brought the Stanley Cup to Texas in 1999. [Image: Wikipedia]

Established in: 1993

Stanley Cups won: 1 (1999)

Star players: Forward Tyler Seguin, forward Jamie Benn, forward Alex Radulov, defenseman Miro Heiskanen

All-time greats: Mike Modano (1993-10), Joe Nieuwendyk (1995-02), Sergei Zubov (1996-09), Ed Belfour (1997-02), Brett Hull (1998-01)

You should support them if: You love Texas.

The Stars moved from Minnesota in 1993 and immediately became one of the league’s most dominant teams, becoming the first Sun Belt team to win the Cup in 1999 and reaching the Cup final in 2000.

Dallas has had a few good, not great, years — notably their upstart run to the Stanley Cup final in the bubble playoffs of 2020 after hosting that year’s Winter Classic — but haven’t quite been able to reach the summit in the new century.

Detroit Red Wings

Detroit Red Wings
The Detroit Red Wings last won the Stanley Cup in 2008. [Image: Michael Righi/Wikimedia Commons]

Established in: 1933

Stanley Cups won: 11 (1936, 1937, 1943, 1950, 1952, 1954, 1955, 1997, 1998, 2002, 2008)

Star players: Center Dylan Larkin, forward Tyler Bertuzzi, forward, Filip Zadina, defenseman Moritz Seider

All-time greats: Ted Lindasy (1944-57), Gordie Howe (1946-71), Terry Sawchuk (1949-64), Alex Delvecchio (1950-74), Steve Yzerman (1983-06), Nick Lidstrom (1991-12), Sergei Fedorov (1990-03), Brendan Shanahan (1996-06), Pavel Datsyuk (2001-16), Henrik Zetterberg (2002-18) 

You should support them if: You love timeless teams.

The Red Wings are classic. They have arguably the best alumni base. They play in Hockeytown USA.

They have arguably the coolest playoff tradition — throwing octopus on the ice in a nod to when it took just eight wins to claim the Stanley Cup.

The only thing they don’t quite have yet is a winning club, although with Yzerman calling the shots as the team’s general manager, that can’t be too far off.

Edmonton Oilers

Wayne Gretzky - Edmonton Oilers
Wayne Gretzky helped maked Edmonton the City of Champions in Canada by winning four championships with the Oilers in a five-year span. [Image: Richard Bartlaga/Flickr, CC BY-ND 2.0]

Established in: 1979

Stanley Cups won: 5 (1984, 1985, 1987, 1988, 1990)

Star players: Center Connor McDavid, forward Leon Draisaitl, forward Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, defenseman Darnell Nurse

All-time greats: Wayne Gretzky (1979-88), Mark Messier (1979-91), Jari Kurri (1980-90), Paul Coffey (1980-87), Glenn Anderson (1980-91), Grant Fuhr (1981-91), Ryan Smyth (1994-07)

You should support them if: You love old-time dynasties.

The Oilers organization is still clinging to the five championships it won in a seven-year span, while also trying to revive Edmonton’s moniker as Canada’s City of Champions.

McDavid and Draisaitl are a veritable 1-2 punch as two of the league’s best players, but the Oilers have struggled to put enough talent around them to become even a championship contender.

That duo is still fun to watch, though.

Florida Panthers

Florida Panthers
The Florida Panthers have struggled to capture South Florida’s attention since moving to Sunrise in 1998 yet are on the rise. [Image: Ines Hegedus-Garcia/Flickr, CC BY 2.0]

Established in: 1993

Stanley Cups won: 0

Star players: Center Aleksander Barkov, forward Jonathan Huberdeau, forward Sam Bennett, forward Sam Reinhart, defenseman Aaron Ekblad, goalie Sergei Bobrovsky

All-time greats: John Vanbiesbrouck (1993-98), Scott Mellanby (1993-01), Pavel Bure (1999-02), Roberto Luongo (2000-06, 2014-19), Olli Jokinen (2000-09)

You should support them if: You support endangered species.

The Panthers have long been one of the NHL’s most moribund organizations. Outside of their famous Year of the Rat run to the Cup final, Florida has been largely irrelevant and a threat to move.

Still, the Panthers have one of the NHL’s best young cores and are poised for a run of relevance.

Will the team be supported? Stay tuned.

Los Angeles Kings

Dustin Brown - Los Angeles Kings
Dustin Brown and the Los Angeles Kings won the Stanley Cup twice in a three-year span in 2012 and 2014. [Image: Wikimedia Commons]

Established in: 1967

Stanley Cups won: 2 (2012, 2014)

Star players: Center Anze Kopitar, defenseman Drew Doughty, goalie Jonathan Quick

All-time greats: Marcel Dionne (1975-87), Luc Robitaille (1986-94, 2003-06), Wayne Gretzky (1988-96), Rob Blake (1989-01, 2006-08), Jeff Carter (2012-20)

You should support them if: You love the glitz and glam of Hollywood.

The Kings may be down the pecking order of Southern California sports, but they are still the top hockey act in town thanks to a mid-2010s run that included two championships and a trip to the Western Conference final in 2013.

The Kings are notable for their splash-making as they brought Wayne Gretzky to the US in 1988 and moved the NHL from out of the dark ages and toward the mainstream — particularly as celebrities flooded the Great Western Forum, LA’s home arena at the time, to get a glimpse of “The Great One”.

Minnesota Wild

Mikko Koivu - Minnesota Wild
Mikko Koivu was the Minnesota Wild captain for 10 seasons before he departed for Columbus in 2020. [Image: Andy Witchger/Flickr, CC BY 2.0]

Established in: 2000

Stanley Cups won: 0

Star players: Forward Kirill Kaprizov, forward Joel Eriksson-Ek, forward Mats Zuccarello, defenseman Matt Dumba, defenseman Jared Spurgeon

All-time greats: Marian Gaborik (2000-09), Mikko Koivu (2005-20), Niklas Backstrom (2006-15), Ryan Suter (2012-21)

You should support them if: You support second chances.

The Wild have unfortunately had similar success to the North Stars before them only with much more rabid fan support. Losing a team will inspire that.

The Wild haven’t yet achieved star status in the NHL zeitgeist, but they’re trying with a young core of skilled players, coach Dean Evason and general manager Bill Guerin appear to be moving in the right direction.

Montreal Canadiens

Montreal Canadiens
The Montreal Canadiens have won the Stanley Cup 24 times, by far the most of any NHL team. [Image: Ken Lund/Wikimedia Commons]

Established in: 1917

Stanley Cups won: 24 (1924, 1925, 1930, 1931, 1944, 1946, 1953, 1956, 1957, 1958, 1959, 1960, 1965, 1966, 1968, 1969, 1971, 1973, 1976, 1977, 1978, 1979, 1986, 1993)

Star players: Forward Brendan Gallagher, forward Jonathan Drouin, defenseman Jeff Petry, defenseman Shea Weber, goalie Carey Price

All-time greats: Georges Vezina (1917-26), Maurice Richard (1942-60), Jean Beliveau (1950-71), Jacques Plante (1952-63), Henri Richard (1955-75), Yvon Cournoyer (1963-79), Ken Dryden (1971-79), Guy Lafleur (1971-85), Larry Robinson (1972-89), Patrick Roy (1984-95)

You should support them if: You speak French or love a winning tradition.

The Canadiens are sports royalty, essentially hockey’s New York Yankees, with the timeless uniforms, endless traditions and litany of star alumni looming over the present-day roster.

Montreal is currently stuck in its longest championship drought in franchise history, but that shouldn’t stop any prospective fans from cheering on le bleu, blanc et rouge.

Nashville Predators

Nashville Predators - catfish toy
Nashville Predators fans have started throwing catfish on the ice in an homage to the region’s southern roots. [Image: Brent Moore/Flickr, CC BY-NC 2.0]

Established in: 1998

Stanley Cups won: 0

Star players: Center Matt Duchene, forward Filip Forsberg, defenseman Roman Josi, defenseman Mattias Ekholm

All-time greats: Tomas Vokoun (1998-07), David Legwand (1999-14), Shea Weber (2005-16), Mike Fisher (2010-18) Pekka Rinne (2005-21)

You should support them if: You like your sports with a twang.

The Predators play in the heart of Nashville and have embraced the Music City theme as one of their main identities, enlisting marquee country acts to perform the national anthem at playoff games and even having a house band play during intermissions at every home game.

What they haven’t quite done is reach the promised land, as the Predators’ deepest run came in 2017 when they fell to the Pittsburgh Penguins in the Cup final.

New Jersey Devils

 New Jersey Devils
The New Jersey Devils won the Stanley Cup three times in nine seasons between 1995-03 and are trying to build back to a championship-caliber team again. [Image: Wally Gobetz/Flickr, CC BY-NC-ND 2.0]

Established in: 1982

Stanley Cups won: 3 (1995, 2000, 2003)

Star players: Center Jack Hughes, center Nico Hischier, defenseman Dougie Hamilton, defenseman P.K. Subban, goalie Mackenzie Blackwood

All-time greats: Scott Niedermayer (1991-04), Scott Stevens (1991-04), Martin Brodeur (1992-14), Patrik Elias (1995-16)

You should support them if: You like an upstart and have thick skin.

New Jersey is constantly belittled for its small-market status and “boring” run of success in the mid-1990s and early 2000s.

Devils fans embrace their team’s history and relish the three championships — even though the title celebrations came in the parking lot of the Meadowlands arena.

They also hope the team can emerge from a dark period with its young and improving core and deliver a new and sustained run of excellence to Prudential Center.

New York Islanders

New York Islanders
The New York Islanders won the Stanley Cup in four straight seasons between 1980-83. [Image: Wikimedia Commons]

Established in: 1972

Stanley Cups won: 4 (1980, 1981, 1982, 1983)

Star players: Center Mathew Barzal, forward Josh Bailey, forward Anthony Beauvilier, defenseman Ryan Pulock, defenseman Adam Pelech, goalie Ilya Sorokin

All-time greats: Denis Potvin (1973-88), Bryan Trottier (1975-90), Clark Gillies (1974-86), Mike Bossy (1977-87), Butch Goring (1980-85), Billy Smith (1972-89), Pat Lafontaine (1983-91)

You should support them if: You like an upstart and have thick skin.

The Islanders have taken a lot of the same flack that Devils fans have gone through in their existence, notably from New York Rangers fans.

Still, the Islanders’ dynasty in the early 1980s cemented their place in hockey history, and fans on Long Island are hoping the present-day team — which has reached the Eastern Conference final two straight years — can rekindle some of that success at their new home, UBS Arena, which opened November 20, 2021.

New York Rangers

Henrik Lundqvist - NHL
Henrik Lundqvist is arguably the greatest player in hockey history to not win the Stanley Cup. [Image: Lisa Gansky/Wikimedia Commons]

Established in: 1926

Stanley Cups won: 4 (1928, 1933, 1940, 1994)

Star players: Center Mika Zibanejad, forward Artemi Panarin, defenseman Adam Fox, goalie Igor Shesterkin

All-time greats: Gump Worsley (1952-63), Rod Gilbert (1960-78), Jean Ratelle (1960-75), Ed Giacomin (1965-75), Brad Park (1968-75), Brian Leetch (1988-04), Mike Richter (1989-03), Mark Messier (1991-97, 2000-04),  Wayne Gretzky (1997-99), Henrik Lundqvist (2005-20)

You should support them if: You love to cheer for a frontrunner that never actually wins.

The Rangers own the hockey scene in New York, and Rangers fans like to pretend they don’t share a market with two other teams.

Sure, the Rangers have history, tradition and arguably the greatest arena in hockey — Madison Square Garden — but they’ve only won one championship since 1940 and have only reached the Stanley Cup final twice since 1980, famously winning in 1994.

The Islanders won as many titles in four years as it’s taken the Rangers to in nearly 100.

Still, the fandom gets passed from generation to generation and that same superiority always seems to be there as well.

Ottawa Senators

Ottawa Senators
The Ottawa Senators had roaring success in their first ideation in the NHL yet have not claimed the Stanley Cup since rejoining the league in 1991. [Image: Wikimedia Commons]

Established in: 1991

Stanley Cups won: 0

Star players: Forward Brady Tkachuk, forward Tim Stutzle, defenseman Thomas Chabot

All-time greats: Daniel Alfredsson (1995-13), Alexei Yashin (1993-01), Wade Redden (1996-08), Chris Phillips (1997-15), Marian Hossa (1998-04), Jason Spezza (2003-14), Erik Karlsson (2009-18), Craig Anderson (2010-20)

You should support them if: You want to support a Canadian team that isn’t a blue blood and can tolerate a miserly owner.

The Senators sit tucked between Toronto and Montreal and usually are stuck playing the little brother to each team’s verbose fanbase.

The Senators are generally plucky, coming just a goal from an upstart run to the Cup final in 2017 and reaching the Cup final in 2007, and are on the rise with a slew of great young draft picks.

But as long as owner Eugene Melnyk is signing the paychecks, the team will act stingy financially and could ultimately skip town if its arena situation isn’t resolved.

Philadelphia Flyers

Bob Clarke  - NHL
Bob Clarke and the Philadelphia Flyers’ legendary “Broad Street Bullies” teams of the 1970s captured the tough-minded city’s hearts. [Image: Centpacrr/Wikipedia]

Established in: 1967

Stanley Cups won: 2 (1974, 1975)

Star players: Center Sean Couturier, forward Claude Giroux, forward Cam Atkinson, defenseman Ivan Provorov, defenseman Ryan Ellis, goalie Carter Hart

All-time greats: Bernie Parent (1967-70, 1973-79), Bob Clarke (1969-84), Bill Barber (1972-84), Mark Howe (1982-92), Ron Hextall (1986-92, 1994-99), Eric Lindros (1992-00), John LeClair (1994-04), Eric Desjardins (1995-06)

You should support them if: You have no problem being the villain.

The Flyers embraced the Broad Street Bullies moniker that led to two Stanley Cup championships and three straight trips to the Cup final and haven’t shaken that rep even almost 50 years later.

The Flyers want to play rough-and-tumble hockey, and it paid off with their legendary Legion of Doom line with Lindros, LeClair and Mikael Renberg during the 1990s that led to a run of regular-season dominance and a Stanley Cup final appearance in 1997.

Philadelphia hasn’t played for the Cup since but is always in the hunt with a rabid fan base that is just itching for another championship.

Pittsburgh Penguins

Mario Lemieux
Mario Lemieux, arguably the greatest player in NHL history, brought two Stanley Cup championships to Pittsburgh as a player and presided over three more championships as a team owner. [Image: Tony McCune/Wikimedia Commons]

Established in: 1967

Stanley Cups won: 5 (1991, 1992, 2009, 2016, 2017)

Star players: Center Sidney Crosby, center Evgeni Malkin, forward Jeff Carter, forward Jake Guentzel, defenseman Kris Letang

All-time greats: Mario Lemieux (1984-06), Jaromir Jagr (1990-01), Ron Francis (1991-98), Marc-Andre Fleury (2003-17)

You should support them if: You love flightless birds or flock to superstars.

The Penguins have been, let’s just say fortunate, through the years to land multiple generational talents — notably Lemieux, Crosby and Malkin — who have in turn built a standard of excellence as the Penguins’ identity.

Lemieux and Jagr teamed up for consecutive titles in the early 90s, then Crosby and Malkin helped did the same in the mid-2010s.

Crosby, Letang and Malkin are still going strong, and the Penguins are trying for one last championship run before the inevitable rebuild that is to come.

San Jose Sharks

 San Jose Sharks
Despite being one of the NHL’s most consistent teams, the San Jose Sharks haven’t yet won the Stanley Cup. [Image: Wikimedia Commons]

Established in: 1991

Stanley Cups won: 0

Star players: Center Logan Couture, forward Tomas Hertl, defenseman Erik Karlsson, defenseman Brent Burns

All-time greats: Owen Nolan (1995-03),  Patrick Marleau (1997-17), Evgeni Nabokov (1999-10), Joe Thornton (2005-20), Joe Pavelski (2006-19), Dan Boyle (2008-14)

You should support them if: You support teams that fall just short.

The Sharks have been perennially one of the NHL’s best teams throughout the 2000s yet have never quite reached the summit.

San Jose has made the playoffs 21 times in its 30-season existence, had nine 100-plus-point seasons in the 2000s yet has only reached the Cup final once in 2016, losing in six games to the Penguins.

The Sharks are caught between rebuilding and chasing the championship right now, an unenviable position generally.

Seattle Kraken

The Seattle Kraken
The Seattle Kraken are brand new to the NHL as of 2021. [Image: Rob Masefield/Flickr, CC BY-NC-ND 2.0]

Established in: 2021

Stanley Cups won: 0

Star players:

All-time greats:

You should support them if: You want in on the ground floor.

The Kraken are brand new, with no discernible history, identity or legacy.

They play in sports-mad Seattle yet have struggled out of the gate in their first season.

If you want the truest taste of hockey fandom — watching a club build, grow and ultimately taste success — this is the place to start.

St. Louis Blues

Brayden Schenn - St. Louis Blues
Brayden Schenn and the St. Louis Blues finally brought the Stanley Cup to the Gateway city in 2019. [Image: Wikimedia Commons]

Established in: 1967

Stanley Cups won: 1 (2019)

Star players: Center Ryan O’Reilly, forward Vladimir Tarasenko, defenseman Colton Parayko, goalie Jordan Binnigton

All-time greats: Glenn Hall (1967-71), Bernie Federko (1976-89), Brett Hull (1987-98), Al MacInnis (1994-04), Chris Pronger (1995-04), David Backes (2006-16), Alex Pietrangelo (2008-20)

You should support them if: You’re a long-suffering fan who finally got the payout.

The Blues were like the Sharks for years, constantly falling short and letting down their fans.

Then came the magical run from last place to the Stanley Cup during the 2018-19 season.

St. Louis has emerged from the Blackhawks’ shadow as one of the best teams in the NHL, led by O’Reilly and coach Craig Berube, and should be playoff regulars for the foreseeable future.

Tampa Bay Lightning

Tampa Bay Lightning
The Tampa Bay Lightning are the NHL’s model franchise and two-time defending Stanley Cup champions as of 2021. [Image: Matthew Paulson/Flickr, CC BY-NC-ND 2.0]

Established in: 1992

Stanley Cups won: 3 (2004, 2020, 2021)

Star players: Center Brayden Point, center Steven Stamkos, forward Nikita Kucherov, defenseman Victor Hedman, goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy

All-time greats: Vincent Lecavalier (1998-13), Martin St. Louis (2000-14), Brad Richards (2000-08),Nikolai Khabibulin (2000-04), Dan Boyle (2001-08)

You should support them if: You want in at the penthouse.

The Lightning are the model NHL franchise with a loaded roster and arguably the NHL’s top coach, John Cooper.

Tampa Bay has brought home consecutive championships and reached the Cup final three times since 2015 yet also has a strong tradition that includes a championship in 2004.

Toronto Maple Leafs

Morgan Rielly - Toronto Maple Leafs
Morgan Rielly and the Toronto Maple Leafs are one of the NHL’s best teams yet haven’t found a way to win a playoff series as of 2021. [Image: Michael Miller/Wikimedia Commons]

Established in: 1926

Stanley Cups won: 13 (1918, 1922, 1932, 1942, 1945, 1947, 1948, 1949, 1951, 1962, 1963, 1964, 1967)

Star players: Center Auston Matthews, center John Tavares, forward Mitch Marner, forward William Nylander, defenseman Morgan Rielly, defenseman Jake Muzzin

All-time greats: Turk Broda (1936-52), Tim Horton (1949-70), George Armstrong (1949-71), Frank Mahovolich (1957-68), Johnny Bower (1958-70), Dave Keon (1960-74), Darryl Sittler (1970-82), Borje Salming (1973-89), Wendel Clark (1985-94), Doug Gilmour (1991-97), Felix Potvin (1991-99), Mats Sundin (1994-08)

You should support them if: You are a New York Knicks or Dallas Cowboys fan.

The Maple Leafs have all the tradition, all the fan support, all the media attention and none of the recent success.

Toronto currently has the NHL’s longest playoff-series-win drought despite having a roster loaded full of young and skilled talent yet has not even reached the second round of the playoffs since 2004.

The Maple Leafs haven’t been to the Stanley Cup final since they won it all in 1967, with three painful and memorable conference-final defeats in that span.

Toronto is also the center of the hockey universe, meaning the sport will always be focused on the Leafs whether they are good or bad.

Vancouver Canucks

Vancouver Canucks
Despite reaching Game 7 of the Stanley Cup final twice, the Vancouver Canucks haven’t yet claimed the Stanley Cup in their 50-plus-year existence. [Image: Wikimedia Commons]

Established in: 1970

Stanley Cups won: 0

Star players: Center Bo Horvat, forward Brock Boeser, forward Elias Pettersson, forward Conor Garland, defenseman Quinn Hughes, defenseman Oliver Ekman-Larsson, goalie Thatcher Demko

All-time greats: Trevor Linden (1988-98), Pavel Bure (1991-98), Markus Naslund (1996-08), Daniel Sedin (2000-18), Henrik Sedin (2000-18), Alex Edler (2006-21), Roberto Luongo (2006-14) 

You should support them if: You love to watch things burn.

The Canucks have come painfully close to a pair of championships, most recently in 2011 when they were the NHL’s best team yet fell in Game 7 of the Cup final to the Boston Bruins.

Yet both times Vancouver fell in the final, coincidentally each time in Game 7, fans rioted and set the Pacific Northwest city ablaze.

Still, Vancouver appears to be headed in the right direction, talent-wise, although a new coach is likely to end up doing more with that talent than current bench boss Travis Green has.

Vegas Golden Knights

Vegas Golden Knights
The Vegas Golden Knights have built one of the NHL’s best teams since their birth in 2017 but have not yet claimed the Stanley Cup as of 2021. [Image: mark6mauno/Flickr, CC BY 2.0]

Established in: 2017

Stanley Cups won: 0

Star players: Center Jack Eichel, forward Max Pacioretty, forward Mark Stone, defenseman Alex Pietrangelo, goalie Robin Lehner

All-time greats: Marc-Andre Fleury (2017-21)

You should support them if: You want to be an early supporter of a team that can compete for the Cup.

The Golden Knights captured the sports world by reaching the Cup final in their first season, 2017-18, and have built a juggernaut that’s reached the Western Conference final in consecutive seasons but hasn’t yet hoisted the Cup.

The first title can’t be too far off though.

Washington Capitals

Alex Ovechkin - Washington Capitals
Alex Ovechkin, widely considered the greatest player in Washington Capitals history, brought the first Stanley Cup championship to the U.S. capital in 2018. [Image: Michael Miller/Wikimedia Commons]

Established in: 1974

Stanley Cups won: 1 (2018)

Star players: Center Evgeny Kuznetsov, center Nicklas Backstrom, forward Alex Ovechkin, forward T.J. Oshie, defenseman John Carlson

All-time greats: Mike Gartner (1979-89), Peter Bondra (1990-04), Sergei Gonchar (1994-04), Olaf Kolzig (1989-08), Mike Green (2005-15), Braden Holtby (2010-20)

You should support them if: You want to support a team that will inevitably break your heart.

The Capitals finally got over the mountain with Ovechkin and Co. for their first championship after more than 40 years of near-misses, chokes and blown series leads.

For many diehard fans, that championship erased decades of horrible memories, yet what’s happened since is more of the same: dominant regular seasons that end in heartbreaking postseason losses.

Getting on the Capitals bandwagon now is like jumping on a train two stops before the end of the line — as Ovechkin’s chase of Wayne Gretzky’s all-time goals record and the team’s pursuit of a second championship with The Great Eight wearing the ‘C’ are about the only things left to accomplish before the most successful era in team history undoubtedly results in a rocky rebuild.

Winnipeg Jets

Mark Scheifele - Winnipeg Jets
Mark Scheifele is one of the NHL’s best players and one of the Winnipeg Jets’ team leaders. [Image: Lisa Gansky/Wikimedia Commons]

Established in: 2011

Stanley Cups won: 0

Star players: Center Mark Scheifele, forward Kyle Connor, forward Pierre-Luc Dubois, forward Nikolaj Ehlers, forward Blake Wheeler, defenseman Nate Schmidt, goalie Connor Hellebuyck

All-time greats: Dustin Byfuglien (2011-19), Jacob Trouba (2013-19)

You should support them if: You’d love to root for a small-market team with an insanely rabid fan base.

The Jets moved from Atlanta to Winnipeg, Manitoba in 2011 and have sold out every game at Bell MTS Place since — albeit playing in front of empty stands during the COVID-19-shortened 2020-21 season.

Winnipeggers love their Jets and were distraught when the Jets version 1.0 moved to Phoenix in 1996, thus willing the NHL’s return to the Central Canadian market.

The only thing they’d love more is a championship, which neither Jets edition has delivered, coming closest with a trip to the Western Conference final in 2018.

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