Yes, that’s right; well before MLB’s Rockies, there was another team that used the name “Colorado Rockies” for eight seasons before leaving for greener pastures.
In my last “Forgotten Franchises” post, I ran through the history of the Kansas City Scouts, a 1974 expansion team that failed miserably and was moved to Denver after two seasons.
As you may have guessed by now, that team became the Colorado Rockies.
How they ended up in Denver and how they ended up leaving Denver was quite the convoluted story.
On the day of the 1974 expansion draft for the Scouts and Washington Capitals, NHL President Clarence Campbell announced that “conditional” expansion teams for 1976 were awarded to Denver and Seattle. It wasn’t very long before struggling franchises like the Scouts, California Golden Seals and Pittsburgh Penguins made the league open up to the possibility of Denver and Seattle obtaining an existing team rather than an expansion team.
After the dust settled, the Penguins stayed in Pittsburgh, the Scouts moved to Denver, the Seals to Cleveland, and Seattle is still waiting for an NHL team.
The Rockies’ logo was based on the Colorado state flag; as it worked out, that allowed the team to keep the same colors they had in Kansas City.
Unfortunately, for the new owner of the Scouts, the grass in Denver turned out to be greener only by comparison. The team still lost millions during their time in Denver, and spent much of their existence looking for a way out.
The highlight of the Rockies’ six years of existence was making the playoffs in their second year. This is less impressive than it sounds; the rules at the time gave the first two teams in each division a playoff spot, and as the Smythe division was pathetic that year, a 19-40-21 record got the Rockies second place and a playoff spot. The Rockies were swept in the best-of-three first round by the Flyers.
After that it was back to last place for the Rockies.
In 1978, Jack Vickers, the owner of the Rockies announced that he would sell the team to Arthur Imperatore who wanted to play for two more years in Denver and then move to New Jersey once the Meadowlands Arena was completed. This deal was not approved by the league, and part of the reason was likely that the New York Rangers didn’t want to approve a team moving into their territory until they had decided that they wouldn’t move into the new arena themselves (or use the threat of moving as leverage for their own dealings).
At one point, it looked very much like the Rockies would be moving to Ottawa (this was a number of years before the Senators), but as it worked out the NHL approved a sale to John McMullen, who would move the team to New Jersey and call them the Devils.
The Rockies as a team had a very inglorious history, but there a few notable players who pulled on a Rockies’ sweater, including Lanny MacDonald, Wilf Paiement, Barry Beck and Glenn “Chico” Resch. I don’t have Rockies cards for MacDonald or Beck, but I can fill in the others.
I’m not 100% sure of which “Forgotten Franchise” I’ll tackle next, but I’m leaning towards an NBA team. If anybody has any requests, feel free to leave a comment.