The Red Wings – Avalanche brawl was a large scale on-ice melee that occurred March 26, 1997, at Joe Louis Arena in Detroit, Michigan, United States, between two National Hockey League rivals, the Detroit Red Wings and the Colorado Avalanche. The brawl, alternatively called Bloody Wednesday, Fight Night at the Joe and Brawl in Hockeytown, stemmed from a previous on-ice incident between the two teams during the 1996 Western Conference Finals: a controversial hit by Claude Lemieux on the Red Wings' Kris Draper.
Previous incident Edit
The hit sent Draper out of the game and into the hospital with a broken jaw, shattered cheek and orbital bone, which required reconstructive surgery involving his jaw being wired shut and numerous stitches. The Avalanche would go on to defeat the Red Wings in six games, eventually winning the Stanley Cup. After the traditional handshakes that take place after a playoff series, former Red Wing winger Dino Ciccarelli said of Lemieux, "I can't believe I shook the guy's freaking hand."
The brawls Edit
In the next regular season, although the two teams had played each other three times without incident, this fourth meeting on the night of March 26 was different, with nine fights in the game. In the first three match-ups, Lemieux had not dressed for the Avalanche, so Lemieux was making his first appearance against the Wings since the hit on Draper. As tensions mounted early in the first period, defencemen Brent Severyn (Avalanche) and Jamie Pushor (Red Wings) fought at 4:45 of the first period, followed by a fight between forwards Kirk Maltby (Red Wings) and René Corbet (Avalanche) at 10:14.
The major melee ensued at the 18:22 mark, leading to the third fight. Shortly after a collision between Red Wing center Igor Larionov and Avalanche forward Peter Forsberg, Wings enforcer Darren McCarty seized the chance to avenge his Grind Line teammate by escaping a referee's grasp and hitting Lemieux with a right hook from the side. McCarty laid many blows on Lemieux, who fell to the ice and covered his head (labeled "turtling" by the hockey media); McCarty managed to land a few more punches, drag Lemieux to the boards, and knee him in the head before the two were separated by officials.
Seeing what McCarty was doing to Lemieux, Avalanche goaltender Patrick Roy skated out of his net to defend his teammate, but was intercepted by Red Wing forward Brendan Shanahan, who was skating at full speed, with an open ice body check, sending him sprawling momentarily into Avalanche defenseman Adam Foote. While Shanahan and Foote tangled, Wings goalie Mike Vernon went out to center ice to meet Roy, which ended up escalating to a fight when Vernon and Roy dropped their masks, gloves, and blockers. The scrum between Larionov and Forsberg ended with the oft-injured Forsberg aggravating an injury. As a result of the third brawl of the first period, Forsberg and Larionov each received matching minor penalites for roughing; Roy and Vernon were each assessed minor penalties for roughing Shanahan and Foote, respectively, and major penalties for fighting each other, and McCarty received a double-minor for roughing Lemieux, giving Colorado a power play. Forsberg aggravated an injury in scrum with Larionov and would not return, and the McCarty/Lemieux incident left patches of blood on the ice that were visible before the ice was resurfaced by the Zamboni; blood also ended up on the boards near the Red Wings bench.
Fifteen seconds after the Roy/Vernon fight, Avalanche winger Adam Deadmarsh and Red Wing defenceman Vladimir Konstantinov would drop the gloves in another fight for the final fight in the first period.
There would be five more fights (and four stoppages) in the second period: a fight between Shanahan and Foote four seconds into the second period, simultaneous fights between Avalanche winger Mike Keane and Red Wing winger Tomas Holmstrom and between Severyn and Red Wing defenceman Aaron Ward 3:34 in (Severyn and Ward were ejected for a secondary fight), McCarty and Deadmarsh at 7:24 (McCarty also received a roughing), and between Pushor and Avalanche defenceman Uwe Krupp at 11:26.
Mike Vernon, who won his 300th career game, believed the brawl-filled game "brought the Red Wings together" in time for the playoffs. Colorado head coach Marc Crawford, meanwhile, wondered why McCarty did not receive a game misconduct for his largely one-sided instigation and subsequent fight with Lemieux (McCarty received a double-minor for roughing for that incident, and also received a fighting major later in the game). Subsequently, Avalanche right winger Mike Keane criticized Draper for having McCarty fight on his behalf.
A similar free-for-all took place on May 19, during Game 4 of the Western Conference Finals at Joe Louis Arena, when during a penalty-filled game, Crawford was seen screaming obscenities at Red Wings head coach Scotty Bowman across the glass separating the two benches. The Wings would win that game 6-0. Crawford was fined $10,000 for the tirade.
The next year during a game in November between the two teams, McCarty and Lemieux began to throw punches seconds after the opening faceoff, much to the delight of the Joe Louis Arena crowd. And then on April 1, 1998, Joe Louis Arena was the site of another Avs-Wings brawl. This time Patrick Roy challenged and then squared off with Chris Osgood at center ice. The referees called more severe penalties this time, as Roy and Osgood both received minor, major, misconduct, and game misconduct penalties. The two teams combined for 46 penalties totaling 228 minutes. The Wings ultimately won the game 2–0, and would go on to win the second of their consecutive Stanley Cups.
The game and brawl is considered a defining moment in modern Red Wings history. However, as players began to leave each team through free agency, trades, or retirements, the rivalry began to die down.
A game between the Red Wings and Avalanche on March 23, 2002 broke into a brawl (much smaller than the previous two) when Kirk Maltby came into Patrick Roy's net and Roy took exception. The brawl continued when Red Wing goalie Dominik Hašek skated down the length of the ice to confront Roy but tripped on a discarded stick, causing him to crash into and knock over Roy. Infuriated, Roy threw off his gloves and mask to fight as Hasek did the same, but the two were restrained by referees, thus preventing Roy from fighting a third Red Wing goalie since 1997.
Box score Edit
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