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Relocated NHL Teams: The Colorado Rockies

The Colorado Rockies were a professional ice hockey team that played in the NHL from 1976 to 1982. The franchise was formed in 1974 in Kansas and was then known as the Kansas City Scouts. Ivan Mullinex, who also owned the Denver Spurs of the AHL was awarded a franchise for the city of Denver. Unfortunately, Mullinex was unable to secure a deal to bring an NFL franchise from any other city and the NFL cancelled the 1976-77 expansion. Eventually the struggling Kansas City Scouts were sold to a Denver based group which brought the club to Denver to become the Colorado Rockies. The team was named after the Rocky Mountains which run across the length f the state of Colorado. The Rockies played their home games at the McNichols Arena in Denver.

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The Rockies performed miserably on the pitch. During their eight year stay in Denver, they made the Stanley Cup playoffs only once, in1977/78. Even during their playoff year, they posted a losing record (19-40-21) which was only better than five other teams. Their flight to the playoffs was only made possible by the fact that the Smythe division was so poor that only a single team made a .500 record. Even so, the Rockies only beat the Vancouver Canucks to the playoff spot by a mere two points. In the playoffs, the Rockies were swept in two games by the Philadelphia Flyers. The team never again made it to the playoffs and in fact never had a winning season in Denver.

The poor performance could be attributed to poor trades and instability arising from frequent coaching and ownership changes. The Rockies changed coaches eight times in seven years and ownership twice. No single coach lasted a full year or more in Denver. The brightest spot in their drafting would have to be the signing of rookie defenseman Barry Beck in 1977. The imposing defenseman scored a career high 22 goals the following season, which was also an NHL record for goals by a rookie defenseman. Beck was also known for his bad temper often getting into brawls with opposition players. His most infamous brawling incident is a hit to the head of Marc Tardif which almost killed the Quebec Nordiques player during a preseason NHL-WHA exhibition game.

In the 1979/80 season the Rockies had hired an interesting character who would become a fans and payers favorite as coach. Don Cherry, who had just been fired as Boston Bruins brought a reputation of fighting tough till the end. The Rockies adopted the motto “Come to the fights and watch a Rockies game break out!” and it was a common site on billboards throughout Chicago. Cherry was a great motivator and although he was not popular with front office staff, he endeared himself massively to the players and fans. He had a particularly antagonistic relationship with Ray Miron, the Rockies general manager due to his outspokenness. Their stormy relationship mainly stemmed from Miron’s refusal to bring in a replacement for out of form goalie Hardy Astrom, whom cherry called “The Swedish Sieve”. During the final game of that season, he wore a cowboy hat and cowboy boots to the game. The thrashers won the game against the Penguins 5-0 but still finished tied for last in the league with 51 points. All the same, this did not prevent him from receiving a warm sendoff by the Rockies faithful. Since it was already known that he would be leaving the team, as the final buzzer sounded, Rockies players formed two lines with sticks raised to form an arch which Cherry walked through as he acknowledged cheers from adoring fans in the stands.

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Why Did The Rockies relocate?

Despite poor performance by the team, fan turnout stayed relatively stable. In 1978, the first attempt to move the team by New Jersey businessman Arthur Imperatore who had acquired the team failed as the NFL wanted the Meadowlands Arena to be completed first. In 1982, the team changed hands again with Imperatore selling the team to John McMullen, also a New Jersey tycoon. Eventually the move to New Jersey for the 1982-83 season was approved and the franchise was renamed the New Jersey Devils.

Who Played on the Colorado Rockies?

Dennis Dupere LW 1976-1978
Barry Beck D 1977-1980
Gary Croteau F 1976-1980
Wil Paiement RW 1976-1980
Michel Plasse G 1976-1980
Ron Delorme RW 1976-1981
Doug Favell G 1976-1979
Bill McKenzie G 1976-1978, 1979/80
Jack Valiquette C 1978-1981
Rob Ramage D 1979-1982
Chico Resch G 1980-1982
Joel Quenneville D 1979-1982
Aaron Broten LW/C 1980-1982
Merlin Malinowski C 1978-1982
Mark McEwen 1979-1981
Randy Pierce RW 1977-1982

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Where Did The Rockies Play? What was the history of the Colorado Rockies?


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