Today marks the 15th anniversary of what to me represents the pinnacle of the “fighting allows players to self-police the game” argument, the March 26, 1997 brawl between the Detroit Red Wings and Colorado Avalanche at Joe Louis Arena.
This was my first opportunity to cover an NHL game as a member of the credentialed media, and as luck would have it, I got a first-hand view of perhaps the greatest regular season NHL game in living memory. Detroit & Colorado were the two best teams in the league, and clearly there was a tremendous amount of bad blood built up over the previous year, stemming from the Claude Lemieux/Kris Draper hit, of course.
Take a few moments to savor some video of the glory days, and below, you’ll find a few facts which you may not have known about this game…
5. Darren McCarty only received a double-minor for roughing out of that whole fracas. The officials played this one like they had come straight from pro wrestling. Naturally, they were all tied up corralling that notorious goon, Igor Larionov, who started it all with his take-down of Peter Forsberg.
4. Sergei Fedorov played defense in this game, for the first time that season.
3. McCarty ended up scoring the game-winner in overtime, lifting Detroit to a 6-5 victory. That was the last goal he scored in the regular season of his career-best year (19 goals, 30 assists), and in this game, he led all players with 8(!) shots on goal.
2. 15 years later, only 3 players are still in the NHL. Nick Lidstrom and Tomas Holmstrom are still with Detroit, while Mike Knuble is a Washington Capital. The referee on that night, Paul Devorski, is still an active NHL ref.
1. After McCarty’s goal ended the game, Patrick Roy, in what I’ll always consider the greatest display of sportsmanship I’ve ever seen in the NHL, fired the puck down to Mike Vernon as a sign of respect. That win was Vernon’s 300th career victory, a milestone achievement which any goalie would tip his cap to.
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