The club was founded as the Kansas City Scouts in Kansas City, Missouri, in 1974. The Scouts moved to Denver, Colorado in 1976 and became the Colorado Rockies. In 1982, they moved to East Rutherford, New Jersey and took their current name. For their first 25 seasons in New Jersey, the Devils were based at the Meadowlands Sports Complex in East Rutherford and played their home games at Brendan Byrne Arena (later renamed to Continental Airlines Arena). Before the 2007–08 season, the Devils moved to Prudential Center in Newark.
The franchise was poor to mediocre in the eight years before moving to New Jersey, a pattern that continued during the first five years in New Jersey as they failed to make the Stanley Cup playoffs and never finished higher than fifth in their division, which had six teams at the time. Their fortunes began to turn around following the hiring of president and general manager Lou Lamoriello in 1987. Under Lamoriello's stewardship, the Devils made the playoffs all but three times between 1988 and 2012, including 13 berths in a row from 1997 to 2010, and finished with a winning record every season from 1992–93 to 2009–10. They have won the Atlantic Division regular season title nine times, most recently in 2009–10, before transferring to the newly created Metropolitan Division as part of the NHL's realignment in 2013. The Devils have reached the Stanley Cup Finals five times, winning in 1994–95, 1999–2000 and 2002–03, and losing in 2000–01 and 2011–12. The Devils were known for their defense-first approach throughout their years of Cup contention, and were one of the teams credited with popularizing the neutral zone trap in the mid-1990s.
The Devils have a rivalry with their cross-Hudson River neighbor, the New York Rangers, as well as a rivalry with the Philadelphia Flyers. The Devils are one of three NHL teams in the New York metropolitan area; the other two teams are the New York Islanders and New York Rangers, and also one of four major professional sports teams that play their homes games in New Jersey; the others are the National Football League's New York Giants and New York Jets, and the Major League Soccer club New York Red Bulls. Since the move of the New Jersey Nets to Brooklyn in 2012, the franchise has been the only major league team in any sport that explicitly identifies itself as a New Jersey team.