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The Colorado Rockies were a professional ice hockey team in the National Hockey League (NHL) that played in Denver, Coloradomarker, from 1976 to 1982. They were a relocation of the Kansas City Scouts, a 1974 expansion team. The franchise moved to East Rutherfordmarker, New Jerseymarker, in 1982 and was renamed the New Jersey Devils.

Franchise history

Denvermarker and Seattlemarker were to have been awarded franchises in an aborted 1976 NHL expansion. Denver - for many years a venue for minor league hockey - was considered a good market for hockey, and after the NHL expansion was cancelled, the World Hockey Association entered the market briefly with the Denver Spurs. The WHA Spurs franchise - named after the longtime Western Hockey League Spurs team - was moved after only a few months due to fan disinterest, compounded by ongoing rumors that an NHL team was planning to relocate there.

The long troubled California Golden Seals were reported on several occasions to have been considering a move to Denver before deciding on Clevelandmarker, where they became the Barons. Ultimately, it was the Kansas City Scouts that moved to Denver for the 1976–77 NHL season, after selling only 2,000 season tickets for the following season and finding themselves nearly $1 million in debt.

Unfortunately, the situation did not improve significantly. They made the playoffs only once, in the 1977–78 NHL season. Even then, they finished with the fourth-worst record in the league, 21 games under .500. They went down rather meekly in the playoffs, losing to the Philadelphia Flyers in a two-game sweep.

The Rockies did have some outstanding players for a short time. Barry Beck set a record in his rookie year for goals by a rookie defenceman, and Lanny McDonald was traded to the Rockies by Toronto. But the team always had a lack of depth and traded such quality for quantity.

Under Don Cherry

One of the few bright spots in the franchise's history was during the 1979–80 NHL season when flamboyant Don Cherry served as head coach, a former Jack Adams Award winner who had been recently fired by the Boston Bruins. Under Cherry, the Rockies adopted the motto "Come to the fights and watch a Rockies game break out!" This could be seen on billboards all over Denver in the 1979–80 season and rejuvenated the ailing club.

However, as he later admitted, his outspokenness and feuding with Rockies general manager Ray Miron did not endear Cherry to management. While Cherry did much to motivate the players, goaltending was still the team's weakness as Miron refused to replace Hardy Astrom, whom Cherry dubbed the "The Swedish Sieve". Cherry recalled one game where his players had got ten shots on goal without scoring, but Astrom then conceded a goal from the opponent's first shot and so was yanked from net.

"We couldn't win at home and we were losing on the road," Cherry later said. "My failure as a coach came when I couldn't find any other place to play." The Rockies finished with 51 points, and it was apparent that management would scapegoat Cherry for not making the playoffs. In their final game, which was held at home, Cherry's team defeated the Pittsburgh Penguins 5–0. As it was already known that Cherry would not be back next season, he wore a cowboy hat and cowboy boots for what would be his last NHL game, and after the final buzzer sounded his players formed two lines for him, with sticks raised to form an arch to walk between while he acknowledged the cheers of the crowd.

Move to New Jersey

Although attendance in Denver was not bad, the team's financial situation was very unstable. Ownership changed hands twice in four years. Finally, in 1982, New Jerseymarker shipping tycoon John McMullen bought the team. He announced that he had "big plans" for the franchise, but they involved playing in the then-new Brendan Byrne Arenamarker in the New Jersey Meadowlands. The Rockies had actually petitioned to move to New Jersey in 1978, but the NHL vetoed the move because the Byrne Arena was still under construction, and there was no suitable temporary facility in New Jersey at the time. The team was relocated for the 1982–83 NHL season and renamed the New Jersey Devils, and the NHL would not return to Denver until the Quebec Nordiques moved to the Mile High City on June 21, 1995, and became the Colorado Avalanche.


The last active NHL player who had played for the Rockies was Joe Cirella, who left the NHL in 1996, the year that the newly relocated NHL team, the Colorado Avalanche won their first Stanley Cup Championship. The Avalanche had played 23 seasons as the Quebec Nordiques. Two other former Rockies, Paul Gagne and Rick Chernomaz, played until 1999 in the Swiss and German leagues, respectively.

The Colorado Avalanche and the New Jersey Devils met each other in the 2001 Stanley Cup Finals, with the Avalanche winning the series and the championship in seven games; the deciding game was in Denver. By this time, former Rockies head coach Don Cherry was now with Hockey Night in Canada.

The song "Rock and Roll, Pt. 2" (AKA "the Hey Song") was first played in a sport setting at Rockies games in the late 1970s and was later played in most North American sports venues to celebrate home team scores for the better part of 25 years .

The NHL Colorado Rockies should not be confused with the Major League Baseball team of the same name that began playing in the National League in 1993.

Season-by-season record

Note: GP = Games played, W = Wins, L = Losses, T = Ties, Pts = Points, GF = Goals for, GA = Goals against, PIM = Penalties in minutes
Season GP W L T Pts GF GA PIM Finish Playoffs
1976–77 80 20 46 14 54 226 307 978 5th in Smythe Division Out of playoffs
1977–78 80 19 40 21 59 257 305 818 2nd in Smythe Division Lost in preliminary round (PHI), 0-2
1978–79 80 15 53 12 42 210 331 838 4th in Smythe Division Out of playoffs
1979–80 80 19 48 13 51 234 308 1020 6th in Smythe Division Out of playoffs
1980–81 80 22 45 13 57 258 344 1418 4th in Smythe Division Out of playoffs
1981–82 80 18 49 13 49 241 362 1138 5th in Smythe Division Out of playoffs
Totals 480 113 281 86 312 1426 1957 6210

Team captains

First round draft picks

Note: This list does not include selections as the Kansas City Scouts.

Colorado Rockies individual records

  • Most goals in a season: Wilf Paiement, 41 (1976–77)
  • Most assists in a season: Wilf Paiement, 56 (1977–78)
  • Most points in a season: Wilf Paiement, 87 (1977–78)
  • Most penalty minutes in a season: Rob Ramage, 201 (1981–82)
  • Most points in a season, defenceman: Barry Beck, 60 (1977–78)
  • Most points in a season, rookie: Barry Beck, 60 (1977–78)
  • Most wins in a season: Glenn Resch, 16 (1981–82)

See also


External links

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