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Kings, Devils faced humble early years

May 29, 2012, 10:40 PM EST

Marcel Dionne

One could argue that the Los Angeles Kings and New Jersey Devils came a long way during this season alone, yet their earliest days were even more humbling.

The Los Angeles Times’ Chris Foster takes a fascinating look back at the first edition of the team, which was founded by Jack Kent Cooke in 1967. The flashy owner’s quirks manifested itself in team that fit the bill of a squad headquartered near Hollywood – in good ways and bad ways.

Cooke set out to woo Hollywood, and celebrities and starlets often were spotted at his table in the Forum Club.

“If we won, Mr. Cooke would bring Walter Matthau or Jack Lemmon into the locker room,” Wall said. “If we didn’t, it was just him.”

Sure, the Kings were an oddball organization at times, but the Devils took a strange path to being one of the league’s best-run franchises as well. As you may know, the franchise is currently in its third incarnation as the Devils share roots with the Kansas City Scouts (1974-76) and Colorado Rockies (1976-1982).

The awkward growth of that team famously manifested itself in 1983-84, when Wayne Gretzky called the Devils a “Mickey Mouse organization.” (As this Sporting News archived piece shows, Devils fans enjoyed trolling “The Great One” about it.) The Devils missed the playoffs for their first five seasons in New Jersey but have only missed the postseason three times since their first berth in 1987-88.

That’s the kind of success that can make it easy to laugh off those humble beginnings, yet veteran fans of each team could probably regale each other with plenty of anecdotes about more modest times.

  1. bcisleman - May 29, 2012 at 11:01 PM

    Right after Gretzky made the Mickey Mouse comment, the Oil came to the Island and were in the process of getting blown out. Isles fans started a Mickey Mouse chant.

    • James O'Brien - May 29, 2012 at 11:26 PM

      I really feel like I missed out on a great trolling opportunity by not being born yet/being an infant.

      • maalea - May 30, 2012 at 10:46 AM

        Yes, because the internets were very popular back then.

  2. florida76 - May 29, 2012 at 11:58 PM

    In terms of humble beginnings, teams like the Kings and Blues are at the front of the line, since those franchises have never won it all since their 1967 inception. Those teams have remained in their original home cities from the beginning, so that’s a major difference when compared with New Jersey. The New Jersey Devils were born in 1982, and they had a short ten year span before those NJ fans celebrated a Cup win. The Kansas City and Colorado origins of the Devils are basically irreverent, it’s one of those technical details of franchises which have minimal value. Before the Devils began play, few people in NJ could have given a damn about what happened in KC and Colorado.

    Once a team leaves a city the cord has truly been severed. Once the North Stars were transformed into the Dallas Stars, a whole new chapter began. The Cup won by the Stars over Buffalo belonged to Dallas, not Minnesota.

  3. ironmike778 - May 30, 2012 at 10:27 AM

    44 year old Bruins fan here pulling for the Kings. Those fans and that franchise deserves it. Hope they get it done.

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