The hockey brawl: beauty in brutality
I once went to a fight, and a hockey game broke out!
~ Rodney Dangerfield
Fighting is a controversial subject as far as hockey goes. Some love it, some find it unnecessary, yet it doesn’t take fans out of the seats, nor does it keep players from fighting. In fact, you have a 39% chance to see a fight in an NHL game. Yet there’s something rarer, something that only happens once in a blue moon, rearing its raging head as if all the planets have aligned: the hockey brawl. Usually caused by some form of injustice, it happens when all hell breaks lose, and everyone loses their shit. The ice is then draped in sticks, gloves, helmets and blood, as a beautiful gauntlet is made out of the 200 foot long rink. And here I reminisce on some of the greatest since 1980.
April 1984: La bataille du Vendredi saint (Good Friday Massacre)
It was a playoff game in the 1984 playoffs between les Nordiques de Quebec and les Canadiens de Montréal. The teams had a short history of hate, and it showed early in the game. Small fights and battles happened, until the second period, when the powder keg finally exploded. The benches cleared (with the exception of Dale Hunter, he’d come in later), and everyone stormed the ice and fought. In the flurry of fighting, Jean Hamel was knocked out by Louie Slegr and suffered career-ending injuries. They had called the second period, sent the players to the dressing rooms, and added the remaining time to the third. In the third, the players couldn’t contain their anger. The entire Canadiens team made a run for Slegr, and Dale Hunter would explode into a fury and hit everything that moved. Surprisingly, the game was not called, and les Canadiens eventually won 5-3.
January 1987: Punch-up in Piestany
Between the ’50s and the ’90s, there were only two powers as far as hockey went; Canada and USSR. Sure, there were occasions where one of the giants would be taken down, but nobody would dominate like these two. In ’87, the World Junior Championships were a rather nondescript event to the media. Don’t tell that to the players though, they wanted the medals.
A rather inexperienced referee, Hans Rønning, was assigned to this game, and in the first period, let obvious penalties go. This bubbled up when Sergei Shesterikov and Everett Sanipass hit each other after a face-off, which turned out into a fight. Theoren Fleury took a hard slash, which created another fight. A line brawl broke out, and quickly, both benches cleared out and the ice was the site of the only physical battle between a North American country and the USSR in the Cold War. The brawl went on for 20 minutes; the referees could not stop them. They tried turning off the lights, and it didn’t work. They finally called the game.
In the aftermath, both teams were disqualified from the tournament. The Soviet officials were disappointed in their team. Canadians, on the other hand, cried conspiracy, as the Soviet junior team was out of gold contention. The leader behind this conspiracy movement? Don Cherry. Nevertheless, both teams were banned from IIHF competition for six months.
1997: The Brawl in Hockeytown
There was a lot of build-up to this brawl. First of all, Patrick Roy had already had some hate for the Red Wings, after taking a 9 goal beating in his last game at Montreal (after which he would demand to be traded). But the main catalyst for the brawl came in the 1996 playoffs. Claude Lemieux laid a dirty hit on Kris Draper, which ended up in Draper breaking his jaw
Enter March 26th. It was the first time since the incident that Lemieux had faced the Red Wings. There were two fights in early the first period, but the fight between Igor Larionov and Peter Forsberg started it all. They went at it, and since Lemieux and McCarty were both on the ice, McCarty went to fight him. Lemieux turtled, and McCarty proceeded to beat on him. Patrick Roy came from the goal to defend Lemieux, but he met Brendan Shanahan. Shanahan and Adam Foote then fought, and Mike Vernon came out to fight Roy. The ice was bloodied, all from Avalanche players.
More fights would break out between the teams, and the game would end on an overtime goal by, yep, Darren McCarty.
2004: Flyers/Senators Brawl
Martin Havlat was the enemy. He had taken a couple of cheapshots at the Flyers players. The Flyers were out for retribution, but the brawl didn’t start with him. With less than two minutes left in the game, Donald Brashear and Rob Ray (two heavyweight NHL enforcers) got into a rather normal fight. As Brashear was being escorted to the penalty box, a couple of Senators players jumped him, and the brawl started. Everyone got into it (including both the goalies). As those fights subsided (and many ejections later), the game continued… for a couple of seconds. A second fight broke out, which resulted in yet another line brawl. Those subsided, and even more players were ejected. Play continued again… for about a second. Off the face-off, Patrick Sharp took a run at Jason Spezza, and another small brawl occured.
The game resumed after this fight, with only 5 players on each of the benches. In all, 20 players were ejected, and 419 minutes of penalties were given out. Where was Havlat in all of this? In the box, serving another player’s penalty.
2007: Sabres/Senators brawl
No pre-game meditation before this one. It all started with one single hit in the early second period. Chris Neal gets a headshot on Chris Drury. Lindy Ruff, the Buffalo coach, becomes livid. Rather than yelling at the refs for 20 minutes (not that he isn’t livid), he decides to put out a line with two enforcers against a line with Dany Heatley and Jason Spezza. Right off the face-off, the enforcers go for Ottawa’s two stars, and all hell brakes loose. Ray Emery and Marty Biron both fight (well, more like Emery beats on Biron), and there’s a brawl at centre ice. Emery then goes after Andrew Peters, Buffalo’s big enforcer, with a smile. The two coaches start berating each other, and they would go at it if they weren’t separated by the boards and Rob Ray (whom we saw earlier, this time, as the media). It was short, but it was oh so sweet.
2010: Mass Brawl in Chekhov
Yep, this entry comes from the Russian Kontinental Hockey League, and it would make the ’87 USSR junior team proud. I’ll be honest, I have no clue what happens to start the fight (it’s said that a player shoots the puck at another player), but the player keeps beating on the defenseless fight loser after he’s down, and everyone on the line goes at it, and pretty quickly, the benches and penalty boxes clear, as everyone continues to fight. The game was eventually called, 707 penalty minutes were assessed, each team was assessed a 5-0 loss for the game, and there was 5.7 million rubles in fines.
At about 1:56, you’ll see the bears fight. The bears being able to play hockey (I do believe they’re actual bears, they act too bear-ish to be human) is awesome enough though.
Got any others you remember vividly? Post them in the comments! The more brawls, the better! I can’t cover them all.