Before the New Jersey Devils of today’s NHL came to its current home, they were based in Kansas City between 1974 and 1976. They were then known as the Kansas City Scouts. The Scouts came to be as part of a two team NHL expansion in 1974, the other being the Washington Capitals. Initially, the team was to be called the Kansas City Mohawks but the name was abandoned and a fans contest was held, from which the name Scouts was selected. The Scout is a famous statue in Penn Valley Park and which overlooks downtown Kansas City. The iconic statue was also captured on the team’s logo. The Kemper Arena was built to host the Scouts as well as the NBA’s Kansas City Kings. The NFL adopted the contemporary four divisions and two conferences setup in order to accommodate the two new franchises with the Scouts being placed in the Smythe Division. The scouts selected 24 players in the expansion draft with the makeup of 15 forwards, 7 defensemen and 2 goaltenders.
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The Kansas City Scouts were one of the weakest teams in the history of the NHL. The Scouts began as a road team as the Kemper Arena was hosting a Rodeo Show. They played their first nine games of the 1974/75 season on the road and they were completely out of their depth, losing eight and drawing one. They also lost their home debut 4-3 to the Black Hawks on November 2, 1974. Their first win came the following day against fellow expansion team Washington Capitals, whom they beat 5-4 on the road. They finished the season in last place with a 15-54-11 record. They entered the 1975/76 season with the goal of making the playoffs but that was just a dream as a 16 game winless streak between November 28 and Feb 7 saw their hopes go up in smoke. After beating the Capitals on February 7, they went the remaining 27 games of the season without winning another game. They eventually posted a 12-56-12 record, again leaving them rooted to the bottom.
Kansas City Scouts were a hot tempered bunch and were constantly sticking it to opponents, not hesitating to dive into all-in brawls upon the slightest provocation. Among the Scouts charges was a diminutive winger named Wilf Paiement and he certainly ascribed to the team’s way of handling opponents. Paiement had a temper to match his unquestionable talent. On October 25, 1976 during a regular season meeting with the Detroit Red Wings, Wilf got into an argument with Detroit player Dennis Polonich.in a moment of rage, Paiement hit Polonich across the face with his stick, resulting in a severely broken nose. Polonich suffered with breathing problems for the rest of his life and went to court seeking compensation. Aside from the immediate 15 match ban (then the second longest in NHL history) that Paiement suffered after the game, he was slapped with a $850,000 worth of damages payment to Polonich by the courts.
Why were the Kansas City Scouts Relocated?
From the start, the future for the scouts looked bleak. The league had 32 teams in operation and talent was ravenously fought for. New teams found it especially hard to get a footing in the league. The Scouts fared slightly better than the Capitals on the ice but Washington owners had much deeper pockets. A constantly losing team also finds it hard to attract a respectable fan base and the Kemper Arena only attracted an average attendance of just over 8,000 fans during the Scouts’ two seasons in Kansas City. The Scouts ownership, citing financial losses gave an ultimatum to the city to facilitate the sale of 8,000 season tickets for 1975/76, failure to which Kansas City would lose the team. However, only 2000 tickets sold and it became clear that it would not work out for the Scouts in Kansas City. The team was sold to Jack Visers who relocated it to Denver, Colorado and renamed it Colorado Rockies. Since that move, the city of Kansas has not had NHL action but it is one of the cities at the forefront of landing an expansion franchise should that possibility arise, with the Sprint center lying in wait.
Kansas City Scouts Notable Players
Wil Paiement RW 1974-1976
Dennis Patterson D 1974-1976
Randy Rota LW 1974-1976
Peter McDuffe G 1974/75
Guy Charron LW 1974-1976
Robin Burns LW 1974-1976
Ed Gilbert C 1974-1976
Dave Hudson C 1974-1976
Simon Nolet RW 1974-1976
Jim McElmury D 1974-1976
Dennis Herron G 1974-1976
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