NHL: Detroit-Colorado Rivalry Losing Its Lustre

Pat SullivanCorrespondent IMay 1, 2008

The Detroit Red Wings, Colorado Avalanche rivalry has lost its bite.

Since the gruesome 1997 brawl between the two teams, there have been many altercations. Mike Vernon and Chris Osgood have made it a Red Wings' goaltender rite of passage to fight Patrick Roy, and Claude Lemieux may never be able to visit the Motor City again.

The on-ice violence fueled the rivalry and made for very exciting games. But as the battling components of both teams filter out into hockey oblivion, the rivalry is all but gone.

The two franchises that alternated Stanley Cups from 1996 to 2002 have gone their separate ways. The Red Wings are still annual contenders, while the Avalanche have drifted into mediocrity.

The talent gap is apparent in the lopsided games. The Wings have pounded the Avs in the current installment of this "rivalry," the Western Conference Semifinals.

Fans were very excited to embark upon this installment, but the dry play has left them disappointed. This series has forced both teams' fans to realize that there may never be another seven-game thriller, filled with fighting goalies, major penalties, and intense emotion. 

Sadly, there is no feasible way to revive what was once the greatest rivalry in sports.

With the National Hockey League's rules promoting a more finessed game, Claude Lemieux-esque players no longer have a place in the NHL.

Brendan Shanahan, Rene Corbet, and the other gritty characters in the 1997 brawl have all been replaced with skilled scorers like Pavel Datsyuk and Peter Stastny. Patrick Roy has been replaced with Jose Theodore, a former Hart Trophy winner. 

The ghosts of the rivalry certainly haunt both the Pepsi Center in Colorado and Detroit's Joe Louis Arena. But as much as fans would like to see these hockey spirits on the ice, they will remain in the stands, watching a speedy Red Wings team blow by an average Avalanche team.

Hopefully, one day in the not-so-distant future, this once great rivalry can be rekindled.