On This Date in Sports October 8, 1982
In collaboration with the Sportsecyclopedia.com
Three days after playing the Pittsburgh Penguins to 3-3 tie at the Meadowlands, the New Jersey Devils earn their first win, beating the New York Rangers 3-2 in the birth of the Hudson River Rivalry. The Devils get the game-winner by Merlin Malinowski on a power-play goal late in the second period, while Chico Resch did the rest in goal, stopping 21 of 23 shots. The Devils would post a record of 17-49-14 in their first season.
New Jersey, was the third stop for the franchise that began play as the Kansas City Scouts in 1974. After two unsuccessful seasons, the team moved to Denver, becoming the Colorado Rockies. The team would not fare much better in the Mile-High City, as they made just one playoff appearance in six seasons. The team was brought by Dr. John McMullen in spring of 1982, getting approval to move to the Garden State in May. The name Devils was chosen as a tribute to legendary Jersey Devil from the Pine Barrens.
On October 5th, the New Jersey Devils hosted the Pittsburgh Penguins in the first official game at the Brendan Byrne Arena in the Meadowlands Sports complex. The new team showed some early spirit in their first game, as they played the Penguins to a 3-3 tie. Captain Don Lever scored the first goal for the Devils. Three nights later a sellout crowd was on hand as the Devils began a new rivalry with the New York Rangers. The crowd was 50-50 by most estimates, as the new team was trying to prove it belonged with the long-established team in blue from across the Hudson River. The Devils drew first blood, with a power-play goal by Steve Tambellini in the first period. The Rangers did not answer until the second when Anders Hedberg even the score. The Devils did not get a shot on goal for the first 11 minutes of the second period, but got the lead a short time later, on a goal Bobby McMillan that was misplayed by Goalie John Davidson. The Rangers would tie the game just 19 seconds later with a goal from Mark Pavelich. Late in the second period, the Devils would again take the lead as McMillan set up Merlin Malinowski on the power play. The rest was up to Chico Resch, as the Devils goalie stopped 21-of-23 shots to earn the win. The Devils made the most of their chances, scoring twice on three power-play chances, while the Rangers failed to score on any of their six power-play chances.
The Devils would continue their struggles in New Jersey as they finished fifth in the Patrick Division with a record of 17-49-14. For their first five seasons in the Garden State, the Devils had plenty of growing pains as Wayne Gretzky referred to them as “Mickey Mouse Organization”. However, after hiring Lou Lamoriello as the General Manager in 1987 things began to turn around for New Jersey as they made the playoffs for the first time in 1988 and made a shocking run to Game 7 of the Wales Conference Finals. After making the playoffs the first time, the Devils became legitimate contenders for the next 25 years as they missed the playoffs just three times between 1988-2012. Over that period the Devils went to the Stanley Cup Final, five times, taking home Lord Stanley three times, with a team built on goaltending and defense, with Martin Brodeur becoming the all-time winningest goalie. While Scott Stevens, Ken Daneyko, and Scott Niedermeyer formed the toughest defense in the league. As the Devils achieved greatness their rivalry with the Rangers soared with several classic playoff showdowns.