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Rocky Hockey book by Greg Enright

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Just checked out a book called Rocky Hockey:  The Short But Wild Ride of the NHL’s Colorado Rockies by Greg Enright.  Along with some background on the Scouts and the failures in Kansas City that led to that franchise relocating to Denver after just two seasons, the history of the Rockies is told in a relatively straightforward fashion, with what amounts to season-by-seasons recaps, and of course, the events that led them to eventually find a permanent home in New Jersey.

As someone who’s already done a fair bit of research already about the franchise’s history as both the Scouts and Rockies, I can’t say there was a ton of new and/or surprising info here.  The season recaps (there’s chapters dedicated to each one) tend to be a bit nuts-and-bolts…some games in particular are discussed in detail, but most actual quotes from various parties appear to be dusted off from various articles from the time.  There’s some background given on certain players here and there, but not much that’s terribly in-depth.

The basics:

Going back to its KC days, each ownership group was either not willing to put a lot of money into their product, or not patient enough to wait for things to turn around or improve.  Colorado Owner #2 Arthur Imperator first made it clear that he wanted to move the Rockies to NJ but the new arena wasn’t close to being ready; he then later claimed to being committed to keeping the franchise in Denver, but of course the few fans who had been consistently coming to watch the Rockies were skeptical.  Once Owner #1 Jack Vickers sold the team, every season after felt murky, no matter what promises were being made to keep the Rockies in Colorado.

Attendance was usually piss-poor, partly because the team was awful most of the time, but also because the economy in Denver wasn’t great in the 1970s and fans only had so much disposable income to spend on the local pro teams; those fans were more interested in the Broncos and the Nuggets.  Due to Smythe Division being chock full of mostly crappy teams, the Rockies actually found themselves in playoff position past the halfway point in some of their seasons, but often had a way of completely falling apart down the stretch (one such promising season saw them win just one of their final 20 games), which didn’t exactly endear themselves to the locals.

As you’d expect from teams that lose a lot, teammates often squabbled with each other, both in the locker room and in the press.  Coaches grew frustrated with the late season collapses and didn’t mince words with how they felt about them.

BUT, most Rocky players really did want to help turn things around, even with the constant instability.  Many players were fine with being dealt there, and others were clearly not happy initially when they were dealt elsewhere.

Some good stuff on Chico (who instantly become very popular for the same reasons he’s still so loved to this day here), and of course, Don Cherry’s lone season as the Rockies’ head coach was about what you’d expect…as the front office refused to address the team’s goaltending issues (along with other pissing contests), the relationship with Cherry steadily deteriorated to the point of no return.

Not a bad summer read as we wait for the 2023-24 season to get underway, but nothing mind-blowing either.  Kinda wish Terry Frei had written this one; he was covering the team at the time for the Denver Post, and I think he could’ve offered more of a real insight into what made those old Rockies tick.  

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I attended a few games at old McNichols arena. I bought a Rockies t shirt & had it forever. I lived in Tulsa at the time  & my sister lived in Denver. Wife & I would fly out on Frontier & drove to a different ski resort. Watched Wilf, Merlin, Chico & Lanny. 

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