On This Date in Sports November 19, 1983: Mickey Mouse Devils

In collaboration with the Sportsecyclopedia.com

The New Jersey Devils hit rock bottom, losing to the Edmonton Oilers 13-4 at Northlands Coliseum. The Devils, who dropped to 2-18-0 with the loss, had led the game early 2-0 before the Oilers scored four goals in the first period to seize control. After the game, Wayne Gretzky adds insult to injury, calling the Devils a "Mickey Mouse Orginization." Fans in New Jersey take great insult to the term and boo The Great One in January's All-Star Game at the Meadowlands Arena.

Fans of the Devils, hoping to see their second-year team become a success, were angry at Wayne Gretzky for his harsh words directed at the team. However, he was not wrong. The Devils were a terrible franchise that in a decade had only made the playoffs once and were in a third city after playing two seasons as the Kansas City Scouts and six years as the Colorado Rockies. More often than not, the team finished in last, while never rarely topping 20 wins.

Coached by Glenn Sather, the Edmonton Oilers were on the verge of becoming a dynasty. After losing to the New York Islanders in the 1983 Stanley Cup Finals, the Oilers held a 16-3-1 record as they hosted the Devils on a Saturday Night. The New Jersey Devils, in their second season in the Meadowlands, were trying to squeeze their way into a three-team market. They held a record of 2-17-0. They were on a five-game losing streak, having recently ended a ten-game losing streak. 

The Devils played well early in the game as Dave Cameron netted a power-play goal 1:43 into the game. Jan Ludvig scored just after the three-minute mark to make it 2-0, as New Jersey was thinking upset. The Oilers got on the board with a goal by Wayne Gretzky at 5:43. They would tie the game three minutes later on a goal by Willy Lindstrom. With just under five minutes left in the first period, the Oilers scored twice in nine seconds to take a 4-2 lead. The first goal by Jari Kurri was on the power play, while Lindstrom added his second goal of the game. 

In the second period, the Devils answered with a goal from Jeff Larmer at 4:48. The Oilers would again erupt for four goals in the period's final eight minutes to blow the game open at 8-3. It was Gretzky who started the onslaught, while Lindstrom completed a hat trick at 16:06. Kurri scored 26 seconds later, as Wayne Gretzky collected his third assists of the game. With four seconds left in the period, the Oilers got a power-play goal from Paul Coffey. 

As they had in the first two periods, the Devils scored first in the third period, with Paul Gagne scoring on the power-play. The Oilers would embarrass the Devils with five goals in the final ten minutes. Jari Kurri completed the hat trick and scored his fourth goal less than a minute later. Following a goal by Jim Playfair, Kurri scored for the fifth time with 5:34 left in the game. The onslaught was completed with 1:55 left when Wayne Gretzky had a short-handed goal to make the final score 13-4. Gretzky later stated that his comment was meant as sympathy for goalie Ron Low who allowed eight goals. 

The numbers were ugly. Jari Kurri scored five goals, Willy Lindstrom and Wayne Gretzky each had hat tricks, with The Great One adding five assists for an eight-point night. The Devils' embarrassing night led to a change behind the bench as Bill MacMillian was fired and replaced by Tom McVie. The Devils would be in a tanking contest the entire season, posting a record of 17-56-7. Sadly they were runners up in the tanking contest, falling short of a race to get the first pick to land Mario Lemieux. The Devils would continue to toil for a few years before they hired Lou Lamoriello in 1987. The Devils would become a top team over the following 25 years, winning three Stanley Cups.