Kings, Devils faced humble early years

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One could argue that the Los Angeles Kings and New Jersey Devils came a long way during this season alone, yet their earliest days were even more humbling.

The Los Angeles Times’ Chris Foster takes a fascinating look back at the first edition of the team, which was founded by Jack Kent Cooke in 1967. The flashy owner’s quirks manifested itself in team that fit the bill of a squad headquartered near Hollywood – in good ways and bad ways.

Cooke set out to woo Hollywood, and celebrities and starlets often were spotted at his table in the Forum Club.

“If we won, Mr. Cooke would bring Walter Matthau or Jack Lemmon into the locker room,” Wall said. “If we didn’t, it was just him.”

Sure, the Kings were an oddball organization at times, but the Devils took a strange path to being one of the league’s best-run franchises as well. As you may know, the franchise is currently in its third incarnation as the Devils share roots with the Kansas City Scouts (1974-76) and Colorado Rockies (1976-1982).

The awkward growth of that team famously manifested itself in 1983-84, when Wayne Gretzky called the Devils a “Mickey Mouse organization.” (As this Sporting News archived piece shows, Devils fans enjoyed trolling “The Great One” about it.) The Devils missed the playoffs for their first five seasons in New Jersey but have only missed the postseason three times since their first berth in 1987-88.

That’s the kind of success that can make it easy to laugh off those humble beginnings, yet veteran fans of each team could probably regale each other with plenty of anecdotes about more modest times.