Veteran Missouri-area sportswriter Troy Treasure (Icing on the Plains: The Rough Ride of Kansas City’s NHL Scouts) joins the podcast this week to delve into the mostly forgotten (and woeful) two-season saga of the 1974 National Hockey League expansion franchise now known as the New Jersey Devils.
Along with the Washington Capitals, the Scouts were the last additions in the NHL’s aggressive expansion cycle begun in 1967, and a logical progression for a metro area historically steeped in minor league hockey. While team president Edwin Thompson sought to call the club “Mo-Hawks” to reflect the geographical bond between neighboring Missouri and Kansas, Chicago’s similar-sounding Black Hawks squawked in opposition – leading to a community-sourced renaming to “Scouts” after a famous statue overlooking the city.
A construction-delayed (and livestock/rodeo-occupied) Kemper Arena forced the team to play its first month of games on the road (record: 0-7-1), until a 11/2/74 home debut (loss) to Chicago. Their first win finally came the next day away at fellow debutante Washington – the only team to finish the season with a worse record than the Scouts’ 15-54-11.
The next season began more promisingly with KC a mere point out of contention for the NHL’s charitable playoffs by the end of December 1975. However, the team crashed and burned over its remaining 44 games – posting a remarkably futile 1-35-8 record through season’s end.
While rumors of relocation dogged the Scouts as early as the 1975 off-season, the club’s unwieldy ownership structure (at least two dozen investors), limited capital and thin talent pool (exacerbated by NHL expansion and a free-spending WHA) – all against a backdrop of a national economic recession –conspired against the Scouts even before they took to the ice.
Relocation to Denver to become the Colorado Rockies came swiftly in the summer of 1976, and Kansas City’s brief and forgettable fling with top-flight pro hockey was quickly over.
Treasure helps us dissect some of the Scouts’ more notable moments – and surmises why and how the NHL may someday again find its way back to the City of Fountains.
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