Thirty years, 1220 wins, three cups. The late Dr. John McMullen relocated the Colorado Rockies to East Rutherford, New Jersey in May of 1982. After brief stints in Kansas City and Colorado, the franchise moved to the tri-state area, much to the displeasure of other local teams.
A month after McMullen purchased and moved the team to New Jersey, a fan contest led to the naming of the Devils. The legend of the Jersey Devil.
The first home game of the season ended with a three-to-three tie against the Pittsburgh Penguins. Just a few nights later though, the Devils earned their first win and at the same time began a deep-seeded rivalry that every Devils fan can resonate with.
October 8, 1982, Merlin “The Magician” Malinowski scored the third goal of the night to propel the Devils over the neighboring New York Rangers. The first win in Devils history came against the team that had tried to block the Rockies from relocating to New Jersey. Sweet revenge.
The first game winning goal in Devils history was Malinowski’s second of the season, from Joe Cirella and Bob MacMillan at 17:06 of the 2nd period. It was a power play goal. Malinowski played five games for the Devils that season before being traded, along with Scott Fusco, to the Hartford Whalers for Rick Meagher and Garry Howatt. He had three goals and two assists in the five games he played as a Devil.
And while the first seven games of the season appeared very promising, the winning feeling didn’t last long as the Devils spiraled and lost 18 straight.
Yet, while contending with three other teams for fans, the Devils managed to put an average of 12,489 fans in the Brendan Byrne Arena that first year.[i] Not bad for a new team in the area that was competing with teams who had over 15,000 fans on average at games.[ii]
Like many expansion teams, the Devils finished out of the playoffs. One bright spot though, the Devils did not finish last in the Patrick Division. That title went to the Penguins that year.
H/T to Carlos Figueiredo for his research.