A Garden State Work in Progress

The Colorado Rockies had arrived on the East Coast in May of 1982 thanks to Dr. John McMullen and his ownership team. Their first order of business was a name change. Only once before in the history of the National Hockey League had a team retained its nickname when moving from one city to another (the Atlanta Flames had kept their fiery name when they moved to Calgary two years earlier, in 1980) and besides, East Rutherford, New Jersey, where the Brendan Byrne Arena was located, was nowhere near the Rocky Mountains anyway! It was thus, that the team would launch a name-the-team contest through local newspapers. On June 30, 1982, the team announced “Devils” had been chosen by fans out of about a dozen nicknames, which included: Americans, Blades, Coastals, Colonials, Generals, Gulls, Jaguars, Lightning, Meadowlanders, Meadowlarks and Patriots. The name comes from the “Jersey Devil” legend which has been repeated in the Pine Barrens of Southern New Jersey since the 18th century (some contend it goes back even further to the Lenne Lenape Indians, who lived in the area prior to European settlement) and involves the crypto zoological creature that has the “head of a goat, bat wings, horns, small arms with clawed hands, cloven hooves and a forked tail.” The Philadelphia Flyers also operated an old Eastern Hockey League (minor league) affiliate in Cherry Hill, New Jersey named the Jersey Devils in the 1960s up to the mid-1970s. Dr. McMullen would comment on the nickname, saying that “it combines the folklore of South Jersey with the Meadowlands” and that a devil is defined “as a person of notable energy, recklessness and dashing spirit.” It was, however, a bit controversial (as it has remained today, in some circles), but as current General Manager Lou Lamoriello has said, it has and will remain the permanent identity of what would become known as “Jersey’s Team.”

Now that the team had a name, they would need a logo to go with it, and the Devils would further that identity by introducing a simple yet timeless logo that has survived up to the present day. The mark itself would be a monogram that combines an “N” with a devil-horned and tailed “J” in red outlined in green in a white circle also outlined in green. The choosing of green, red and white was a huge departure from the red, yellow and blue that had defined the team from Kansas City through to Colorado. The colors were supposedly chosen by Dr. McMullen’s wife, Jacqueline, who is also thought to have sketched out the logo for the first time, and were said to be red to represent a “devil” and green to represent the “Garden State” where the team was now a permanent tenant. While the colors would only last about ten years, the logo has remained and still represents the team (now with black replacing green) to this day.

The next step was to begin putting a team together to put on the ice. The Devils already had a roster left over from Colorado, including a few stars. Over the years, the franchise had seen some standouts, including Wilf Paiement (the team’s leading scorer during the Kansas City years with 47 goals, 35 assists and 82 points in 135 games played). Paiement would later be traded in 1979 along with Pat Hickey to the Maple Leafs for Joel Quenneville and superstar Lanny McDonald (that trade has an interesting story behind it as it was sort of a power play by Leafs’ GM Punch Imlach over star player Darryl Sittler. Imlach had wished to move Sittler to another team, but he would not waive his no-trade clause. In “retaliation,” McDonald [who was close to Sittler] was instead traded to the Rockies, thus Lanny McDonald would become a member of the NHL’s “Siberia”). McDonald and his famous moustache would play a little under two years in a Rockies uniform, posting 66 goals, 75 assists and 141 points in 142 games played. He would be traded to the Calgary Flames prior to the team’s arrival in New Jersey.

One player who did make the trip east with the Rockies was goaltender Glenn “Chico” Resch. Resch was traded from the New York Islanders in 1981, coming off of a Stanley Cup win in 1980, where he backed up Billy Smith (the Islanders would go on to win three more Cups in a row while Chico toiled away in Colorado and New Jersey). While Chico would not get to win another Stanley Cup, he would become the face of the franchise in its early years in New Jersey. Chico, who got his nickname due to his facial resemblance and similar moustache to actor Freddie Prinze, who was portraying “Chico Rodriguez” on the hit sitcom Chico and the Man while Resch was making a name for himself in the NHL, would be with the Devils until 1986 and was, in fact, part of the first and last trade between the Devils and their Turnpike rivals, the Philadelphia Flyers. Chico remained so popular that he would return to the team in the late 1990’s to be the color commentator on their television broadcasts and would remain in that position until his retirement this past April.

The team’s first transaction was actually made a few weeks following the move to New Jersey becoming official and prior to the team gaining their new nickname. On June 9, 1982, the team traded Rob Ramage to St. Louis for the first pick in the 1982 NHL Draft (which would be used on Rocky Trottier, brother of Islander star Bryan) and the 1983 NHL Draft (used to pick Devils future all-time leading scorer and head coach, John MacLean). The Devils would follow that up by signing goalie Lindsay Middlebrook as a free agent from Minnesota and, the day their first training camp opened in Totowa (at the Ice World), September 13, 1982, signing Rob Palmer from Los Angeles as a free agent. While Palmer would play 60 games for the Devils that first season (posting 1 goal, 10 assists and 11 points and 21 PIMs), Middlebrook would only see action in nine games as a goaltender behind the main tandem of Resch and Ron Low, though he would give up 37 goals in 412 minutes played. Prior to the start of that first training camp, the Devils would name their first captain: Don Lever. Though the team was partially set to take the ice, the transformation from the 1981-82 Colorado Rockies to the 1982-83 New Jersey Devils was not quite complete just yet.

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