The Pirates, the third American-based NHL team, got off to a promising start in 1925-26, making the playoffs in two of their first three seasons. However, the team soon fell on hard times both on the ice and at the box office. A sale to bootlegger Bill Dwyer didn't help the cause. With the stock market crash of 1929 followed by the Great Depression, the owners found themselves having to sell off their star players to make ends meet. By the end of the 1929-30 season, the team was $400,000 in debt, and their arena, the Duquesne Gardens, was not suitable for an NHL team. Boxing promoter Benny Leonard, Dwyer's front man, then requested permission to temporarily move to Philadelphia as the Quakers (from the historical importance of the Quaker religious community in the founding of Philadelphia and Pennsylvania) until a new arena was built in Pittsburgh.
Things got no better on the other side of Pennsylvania. The financial woes continued unabated. On the ice, the Quakers were the definition of futility. It took the team three games to score its first goal and six games to get its first win, which came on November 30th, a 2-1 win over the visiting Toronto Maple Leafs. They finished with a horrendous 4-36-4 record. The .136 winning percentage was the lowest in NHL history, a record that would stand for 45 years until the Washington Capitals finished with a .131 winning percentage in 1974-75. The four wins tied the 1919-20Quebec Bulldogs for the fewest wins in NHL history for a team that played a full season. They had the worst offense (76 goals for) and worst defense (184 goals against) in the league. At the end of that season (1930-31), the Quakers, along with the Ottawa Senators, announced that they would not field a team for the 1931-32 NHL season, leaving Philadelphia without an NHL team until the arrival of the Flyers in 1967.
While the Senators came back for 2 years before moving to St. Louis, the Quakers franchise never iced a team again. At each of the next five season-opening NHL governors meetings, they announced that they were suspending operations for the season. They finally gave up the ghost and officially canceled the franchise when the new arena in Pittsburgh failed to materialize on May 7, 1936. That new arena, the Civic Arena (now Mellon Arena) would not be built until 1961 , and the NHL would not return to Pittsburgh until the arrival of the Penguins in 1967.
Syd Howe was the last active Quakers player, playing his last NHL game in 1946.
The AHLPhiladelphia Phantoms honored the Philadelphia Quakers hockey club on January 26, 2007 during their home game against the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins. They wore replica jerseys patterned after the originals worn by the Quakers in the early '30s. After the game, the jerseys were auctioned off with a portion of the proceeds going to Phantoms Charities.