One of America’s strongest ice hockey teams didn’t start off that way. The early road for the New Jersey Devils certainly was a tough and bumpy one, but for those that stayed the course, a successful 3 Stanley Cup titles was their reward. The Devils began as the Kansas City Scouts in 1974 as an NHL expansion franchise. After two tough seasons and stuck in insurmountable debt, the team moved to Denver to become the Colorado Rockies (not to be confused with the current baseball team). While that team did manage to reach the NHL playoffs once during their 6-season tenure in Colorado, a new owner decided to bring the team to New Jersey. Thus the Devils’ true history began anew.
The early years were a struggle, and included a 13-4 thrashing at the hands of Wayne Gretzky and the Edmonton Oilers, but fortunes began turning in the late 1980s. The team began to win games with key players like Kirk Muller, John MacLean, Ken Daneyko, and Pat Verbeek. In 1988, the Devils wrapped up their first winning season and earned a trip to the playoffs.
New Jersey made a tremendous run to the Eastern Conference Finals but ultimately lost out to the Boston Bruins in a heated 7-game series. Though their Stanley Cup goal ultimately fell short, the Devils had earned the belief that they could contend. Since then the team has consistently reached the playoffs in most seasons and have gone on to achieve greatness.
The first championship came in 1995 after a shortened NHL season. Players like MacLean, Stephane Richer, Claude Lemieux, and Neal Broten hit their stride, and the Devils powered their way to the Stanley Cup, sweeping the Detroit Red Wings in the Finals!
2000 would be the year of the Devils’ second championship season. The stars of the team this go-around included Patrik Elias, Scott Gomez, Petr Sykora, and Jason Arnott. The Stanley Cup Finals was triumphant over the Dallas Stars and brought the New Jersey Devils through to the new millennium in style!
The team has been one of the NHL’s best ever since. The following season brought New Jersey its first Stanley Cup Finals disappointment as the team was beaten by the Colorado Avalanche. But in 2003, they would win a third Stanley Cup, this time in dramatic fashion. Brian Rafalski, Scott Niedermayer, John Madden, Jaime Langenbrunner, Jeff Friesen, Gomez, and Elias were all key members of the side that was a very powerful team unit, without a clear-cut star player. Two of the playoff series went to 7 games, but the Devils held strong and managed to take the title.
While the Devils have yet to win the Stanley Cup since, they have had memorable deep playoff runs on several occasions, including 2006, 2007, and a Finals appearance in 2011, where they lost to the Los Angeles Kings.
And though times have been tough without a playoff appearance in two seasons since, the New Jersey Devils are built to win for the future. The team now features guys like Jaromir Jagr, Travis Zajac, Adam Henrique, Corey Schneider, and veteran Elias, who delight the fans at Prudential Center. I doubt it will be too long before the Devils are back in the NHL Playoffs and contending for further Stanley Cup triumphs!
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