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NHL Fight of the Day: Colorado Avalanche vs. Detroit Red Wings

Kyle NicolasContributor IJanuary 6, 2017

17 Dec 1996: Rightwinger Keith Jones of the Colorado Avalanche (left) and Detroit Red Wings rightwinger Mathieu Dandenault tangle up during a game at McNichols Arena in Denver, Colorado. The Avalanche won the game, 4-3.
Jamie Squire/Getty Images

There are scraps, there are scrums, there are fights, there are brawls and then there are fights that create a rivalry.

And when it comes to these granddaddies of NHL fist-throwings, perhaps none is more notorious than the one that created what was, for years, possibly the most-heated rivalry in the entire NHL.

The story begins in 1996 when Claude Lemeiux, already a notoriously pestering thorn in the Detroit Red Wings' collective side, ran Kris Draper into the boards from behind, smashing his face into the dasher boards and hurting him.

The incident got Lemeiux suspended for the first two games of the Stanley Cup Final in which the Avalanche came out victorious.

Obviously, the Red Wings never forgot about that hit.

Three hundred and six days later, on March 26, 1997, the tensions from that hit boiled over and created a fight unlike any other in NHL history.

It began with Peter Forsberg throwing a hit on Igor Larionov followed by a small extra shot to the head, which the Russian Red Wing took exception to, wrestling the Swedish Avalanche scorer to the ice.

Obviously the Avalanche took exception to this and quickly rushed in to intervene, and while everyone was occupied with the Forsberg-Larionov tilt, tough-guy Darren McCarty finally decided to exact his revenge on Lemeiux for a hit he never forgot.

Without warning, McCarty attacked Lemeiux, prompting the much-revered but extremely hot-headed Avalanche goaltender Patrick Roy to come bolting from his crease to protect his teammate.

Pay attention to the dasher boards at the 3:16 mark of the video and you can see just how badly Darren McCarty hammered him with the giant blood splatter all over the advertisement.

Pretty much, at this point, all hell broke loose.

Mike Vernon left the Detroit goal crease to help and quickly became involved.

Eventually Vernon and a teammate were pulling two-on-one on Avalanche defenseman Adam Foote, prompting Roy to come flying in again and start beating on Vernon in what became one of the greatest goaltender brawls in history.

Goaltenders rarely get into fights, but when they do, nobody ever wanted to have Patrick Roy after them. His fighting ability was never truly doubted.

The fight even got renowned gentleman and NHL great Brenden Shanahan to drop the gloves in one of the rare few times of his career.

The results of this brawl?

Patrick Roy, Claude Lemeiux and Peter Forsberg all had cuts to their faces and were bloodied up.

Darren McCarty was given a double-minor for roughing. Forsberg and Larionov were each given two minutes for roughing. Roy and Vernon were each given two minutes for roughing and five more for fighting. If you do the math properly, you can figure out that the Avalanche were given a four-minute power play coming out of all this.

Perhaps one of the funnier moments comes at the 7:29 mark of the video when Kirk Maltby is shocked and, from the looks of it, extremely grossed out when the referee begins to use his skate to clean up the bloodied up ice in front of the Red Wings bench. I'm not sure what was more gross to him: the fact that he was getting sprayed with bloody ice, or because of the fact that the blood belonged to someone so universally hated in the Red Wings locker room.

From this night up until the days of the NHL lockout, which hit the Avalanche pretty hard, the rivalry between the Red Wings and the Avalanche was one with absolutely zero love lost from either side. Massive brawls came in their meetings quite frequently and players absolutely hated each other on both ends.

While this rivalry has lost some of its fire in recent years due to the Avalanche's lack of success, it can still be argued that this is definitely one of the greatest NHL rivalries of all time and this fight easily one of the most memorable in history.

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