Throwback Thursday: Avalanche Red Wings Brawl


December 7, 1941, may be a day that lived in infamy for the majority of the U.S., but for Avalanche fans, it’s March 26, 1997. That’s the day the Colorado Avalanche indulged in a foll out brawl with the Detroit Red Wings.


More from Avalanche News

It was that nasty Lemieux. The Colorado Avalanche and Detroit Red Wings had already started hating each other during the 1995-96 regular season. However, that Game 6 Claude Lemieaux hit on Chris Draper cemented the rivalry.

It wasn’t pretty, and it doesn’t reflect well on the Avalanche. Lemieux hit Draper from behind, driving his face into the boards. Draper suffered a broken jaw shattered cheek and fractured orbital bone. He had to undergo reconstructive surgery.

The two teams had already been going hard, but that incident eventually led to the Avalanche Red Wings Brawl.

First Period

Though the two teams played each other three times before the March 26 game, everyone knows that month leading up to the end of the season is pre-playoff hockey. It’s gearing up to the intensity of playoff hockey. And this was in the wild 1990s.

The first fight of the Avalanche Red Wings Brawl came less than five minutes into the game. Avalanche defenseman Brent Severyn and Red Wings defenseman Jamie Pushor met up in the Red Wings zone. A little push, a little shove, and they went:

As fights go, this one wasn’t too brutal. Not a ton of punches were exchanged, though Severyn did wrestle Pushor down at the end.

The next fight came about five minutes later. A scrum ensued at center ice after Maltby shouldered him. Avalanche winger Rene Corbet and Red Wings winger were at the center of it. At first they were held up by the referees, though lots of jawing was going on. Both got loose, and they collided right outside the scrum:

Corbet lost his footing almost right away, and they went down. They wrestled a bit, but that was the extent of it.

The biggest fight came with only a minute-and-a-half left in the period. Red Wings center Igor Larionov collided with Avalanche center Peter Forsberg. For some reason that inspired Detroit goon Darren McCarty to go after Claude Lemieux. McCarty blindsided Lemieux and continued to pummel him.

Avalanche goalie Patrick Roy had had enough. He barreled down the ice toward McCarty. Detroit forward Brenden Shanahan skated out to intercept him, and the two collided at full speed mid-air. Watch the blindside followed by the mid-air collision:

That set up one of the most epic goalie battles in history — Patrick Roy vs Mike Vernon:

Patrick Roy ended up bloodied, but he still accounted himself very well.

To finish the first period — remember, this is less than 20 minutes into the game — Colorado winger Adam Deadmarsh fought with Detroit defenseman Vladimir Konstantinov:

Despite the fact that Deadmarsh wasn’t exactly known for fighting, he handled the bigger Konstantinov very well.

Second Period

The second period was just as event-filled as the first. Just four seconds into the period, Shanahan squared off with Avalanche defenseman Adam Foote. They’d had a little conversation during the first period melee, but this time it was all fists:

Both were veteran fighters, and both got some good punches in, but Foote seemed to get a few more digs. (He did end up bloodied, though.)

Since the game was getting a little long with all these stoppages, the teams decided to start doubling up on fights. A few minutes later Colorado’s Severyn dropped the gloves with Detroit’s

Aaron Ward

. Meanwhile, Colorado’s

Mike Keane

paired up with Detroit’s Tomas Holstrom:

There can be no question that Keane went a little psycho on Holstrom, pummeling him while he was down. The Severyn-Ward battle went on a little longer. Extra points to Severyn for participating in most of the fight bare-chested like a 1920s pugilist.

Both Severyn and Ward got booted for a secondary fight.

Next up on the fight docket was Adam Deadmarsh and Darren McCarty:

There was a lot of grappling, but Deadmarsh went down first. He really was accounted more of a skill player.

The final fight of the Avalanche Red Wings Brawl came between big Avalanche defenseman Uwe Krup and Detroit’s Jamie Pushor. Some cross checking led to a scrum near the boards. All the usual suspects were involved, but it was Krupp and Pushor who squared off:

There were some fast and furious punches exchanged between these two heavyweights. The fight seemed to end in an exhausted brawl, but I’m going to give the slight advantage to Krupp.


Unfortunately, all this brawling ended up costing the more skilled Colorado Avalanche. The team had led most of the game, but penalties allowed Detroit to get back into the game. The Red Wings forced an overtime, and they won.

Despite that, the Avalanche Red Wings Brawl of 1997 is one that is remembered fondly by both Avs and Wings fans. It’s also an epic battle that would never be allowed to occur in today’s sanitized NHL. For those of us who watched it live, though, we feel a bit of nostalgia for that bygone era.

Next: Landeskog Fights Ladd -- and Wins

More from Mile High Sticking