What are the most popular teams in the NHL?

Every league has a few teams that everyone knows. If you think baseball you think the New York Yankees. If you think football what comes to mind are the Dallas Cowboys. So what teams come to mind when you think the NHL?

What are the most popular teams in the NHL? From a national perspective the most popular teams are the Original Six (Montreal, Toronto, Boston, New York Rangers, Chicago and Detroit), and teams who are strong Stanley Cup contenders. Although there are many regional rivals that create popularity in smaller pockets. 

Let’s take a closer look.

Embed from Getty Images

The Most Popular: Original Six

The most popular teams are definitely the Original Six. The Original Six is a nickname coined to the six teams who were part of the modern NHL prior to the start of the modern NHL, which coincides with NHL expansion in 1967. (The NHL started with 4 teams in 1917).

The Original Six Teams are:

  • Montreal Canadiens
  • Toronto Maple Leafs
  • Boston Bruins
  • New York Rangers
  • Detroit Red Wings
  • Chicago Blackhawks

What makes these teams so popular? 

What makes each of these teams so popular is a combination of history and lore, and the population size of the city they come from. 

History and Lore

The team that would encapsulate history and lore the most of the Original Six teams is the Montreal Canadians. The Montreal Canadians are the most winning franchise in the history of the Stanley Cup with 24 – the next closest is Toronto with 13. 

Along with that winning Montreal has amazing stories and history to go along with it. They have countless Hall of Famers, and their franchise is the first one thought of by people who would know next to nothing about hockey.

It also helps that hockey was invented in Montreal, and the NHL was also founded in NHL. 

The Original Six have been around so long they have deep established roots within their communities that have created passionate fans.

For instance, Detroit has nicknamed themselves Hockeytown USA. It is fitting because they are passionate hockey fans, who support the Wings through thick and thin (right now it is thin!).

Embed from Getty Images

This history of the Original Six teams has translated into the rest of Canada and the US. 

Before other cities started to get franchises in 1967 (there are now 32 NHL franchises) who would you cheer for if you didn’t have an NHL franchise nearby your city?

People would pick a team based based on a number of reasons – a player they liked, if they could listen to the game on the radio, or simply if they liked the logo. For whatever reason, they adopted one of these six teams.

But the kicker is that once their area got their own NHL team they continued to cheer for one of these Original Six teams. This is not to say that they didn’t cheer for the local team as well, but they have definitely keep their first love.

And what happens is they often pass that love of team onto their kids. Their children will end up cheering for the team that their parents cheer for, and the cycle of popularity continues.

Huge population centres

The other thing going for these Original Six teams is that they are housed in huge population centres of millions so they will naturally have a lot of fans automatically built in. 

However, what has happened to these population centers is that with the mobility of North America they have moved across Canada and the United States. 

So it is no surprise when the Chicago Blackhawks come into Arizona to play the Coyotes and there are thousands of Blackhawk fans in attendance. There are so many transplanted US citizens from the Midwest living in Arizona that it is only natural there would be a lot of Blackhawk fans. 

Winning Teams/Big Stars

The other most popular teams – are not a surprise – the teams that are winning and have the superstars playing for them.

The above sentence would automatically get you to think about the Pittsburgh Penguins and Washington Capitals.

The Penguins with Sidney Crosby have won 3 Stanley Cups in the past decade while the Capitals with Alexander Ovechkin won their first Stanley Cup three years ago.

Crosby and Ovechkin are the longest established stars of the league, and have turned the Penguins and Capitals into a must get ticket when they come to an NHL city. 

The other teams that are currently the most popular would be the Vegas Golden Knights and Edmonton Oilers. 

The Vegas Golden Knights are the new shiny toy in the NHL. They have only been around for three years, but unlike other expansion teams they are actually so good. So good, I would consider them a top Stanley Cup contender. 

The atmosphere in Vegas is electric at games, and they carry this on the road as everyone wants to see this team that has caught the NHL by storm.

The other team that is probably a must see right now is the Edmonton Oilers. This is not because they are good team (they are not), but they have the world’s best player in Connor McDavid. McDavid is termed a generational player – one that comes along only every 20 years or so and is a step above even the other hockey superstars. 

Everyone wants to see McDavid with their own eyes to see what he will pull off next. If the Oilers can surround McDavid with a little bit more talent it will be tough to stop him from winning a Stanley Cup. He is so good he can almost do it alone!


NHL cities set tickets to their individual games based on the opponent who is coming to town. They have regular games and then premium games. Premium games would be for popular teams like the Original Six or local rivalries. 

The popularity of a team to go see an watch is often based on the region that the team is located and the rivalry that team has with the other teams around them.

For instance in Calgary premium games would include games against Edmonton, Vancouver and Winnipeg. Flames fans do not like those teams, and we never like to lose, but they can’t sleep at night if they lose to the Oilers, Canucks, or Jets. 

Every team has their own list of rivals. 

Leave a Reply

Related Articles
Hockey Answered Secondary Logo

Welcome to Hockey Answered: a resource for anyone curious to learn & understand more about the great game of hockey.

I am a lifelong fan who grew up in a major market (Calgary), and I have played, coached, and watched a lot of hockey!

As my daughter began watching NHL games with me, I realized how many questions come up about the sport. Hockey Answered is full of, well, answers! If you are a new fan or lifelong enthusiast, I hope that you can enjoy hockey even more by learning something new around here.

How can we help?