In 1966, the National Hockey League (NHL) expanded for the first time since the 1920s, doubling its size from six teams to twelve. Although hockey was still perceived as a distinctly Canadian passion, none of the NHL’s six new teams were located in Canada. The disappointment across the country was palpable, especially in Canada’s third-largest city, Vancouver, which had applied to be one of the expansion locations. A stable presence in minor league hockey on Canada’s west coast for decades, it seemed only natural that Vancouver, as the lone bidder from the ostensible birthplace of ice hockey, would be tapped for NHL expansion. This paper examines Vancouver’s attempted entry into the NHL and argues that the forces of commercialism and national identity, combined with political maneuvering among NHL owners, not only influenced the content and trajectory of the Vancouver bid, but also contributed to its ultimate failure.
The authors are with the Department of Educational Leadership and Sport Management, Washington State University, Pullman, WA.