The Pittsburgh Hornets weren't the first hockey team in the Steel City, but they were probably the most important until the NHL moved in the fall of 1967. The Hornets started play in the AHL in 1936 after moving from Detroit where they had been the Detroit Olympics. Through the 1955-56 season the Hornets were competitive in the AHL every year. They made the playoffs in 14 of 20 seasons, and made six Finals appearances, finally winning the Calder Cup in 1952 and 1955. During this time, they sported a 'P' logo on their jerseys and generally had red and white uniforms to match those of their NHL affiliate in Detroit. By the 1950s, their uniforms did what many other teams in Pittsburgh wore, and became black and gold. The Hornets would cease operations following the 1955-56 season as their home arena, Duquesne Gardens, was torn down. The Gardens had opened in 1890 and been converted to an ice rink in 1895.
After the Civic Arena was completed, the Hornets started back up for the 1961-62 season. During the 60s, the team sported an angry, hockey stick swinging Hornet as their logo. After being restarted, the Hornets had a tough go of it in their first year, only winning 10 games. They even set an AHL record winless streak at 23 games, starting the year 0-22-1. At the end of the year the Hornets were sold to Bruce Norris, Detroit Red Wings Owner, and the team was able to act as a Detroit farm team and have a better stock of players. At this time, the Hornets wore red and white again, with an interested blue and gold look for road games. The blue and gold would later be phased out as it was hard to see in television.
Two years later, the Hornets made the playoffs in their third season since restarting, and won 40 games. By 1966, the NHL had awarded an expansion franchise to Pittsburgh, likely in no small part to the Hornets' success. But this meant that the Hornets had to go. In their last season, 1966-67, the Hornets would win their third Calder Cup as the franchise's time expired. They swept Rochester in the Finals in four games, with long-time Maple Leaf Billy Harris scoring the franchise's final goal.