32 years later it remains a famous hockey quote. With the passage of time it has come to be seen as ironic as well.
It was Wayne Gretzky, who as a player, disparaged the New Jersey Devils as a “Mickey Mouse Operation”. The remark was made following a 13-4 trouncing by the Gretzky-led Oilers (in the midst of their Stanley Cup run) over the hapless Devils who had no long before relocated to the Garden State from Colorado (where they had been the Rockies, and before that the Kansas City Scouts).
“They are putting a Mickey Mouse operation on the ice”, said “The Great One”. “They struggled in Kansas City, they were awful in Colorado, and now look what is happening. They had better start getting better personnel and start putting them on ice. They are ruining hockey“.
Looking back, it is not the Devils of 1983 who ruined hockey. A case can be made that perhaps over-expansion had a role. Some later would contend that the Devils tight-checking style of their Stanley Cup years (now those Cups had nothing Mickey Mouse about them) turned off some fans (not this one).
Ironically, Gretzky would win his fourth and last Stanely Cup a year later (1984), though he playing career and coaching careers would not end until years later (1999 as a player and 1009 as a coach).
The Oilers would win another Stanley Cup without Gretzky but have slumped for many years since (though they were a Stanley Cup Finalist in 2006).
And, eventually there would surface a real “Mickey Mouse” hockey club – the Disney owned Anaheim franchise.
Now, called the Anaheim Ducks and one of the top teams in the NHL, the club was founded in 1993 by The Walt Disney Company as the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim, a name based on the 1992 film The Mighty Ducks.
Disney sold the franchise in 2005 to Henry Samueli and Susan Samueli, who along with general manager Brian Burke changed the name of the team to the Anaheim Ducks before the 2006–07 season. The Ducks have made the playoffs eleven times and won four Pacific Division titles (2006–07, 2012–13, 2013–14, and 2014–15), two Western Conference championships (2002–03 and 2006–07) and one Stanley Cup (2006–07). That’s no Mickey Mouse operation.