It is hard to believe 20 years has passed since this incredible game. The Avalanche/Red Wing rivalry was one of, if not THE most intense in all of sports. I looked forward to watching these games the most because I knew both teams would be going all out.
This particular game though is forever etched into the storied history of Hockeytown not because of brawl, but because of what the brawl and that game was about. The previous year in game 6 of the Western Conference Finals, Colorado's Claude Lemieux took a cheap shot from behind on Detroit's Kris Draper forcing his face into the top of the boards along the Detroit bench. Draper's face was caved in, suffering a broken orbital bone, cheekbone, nose and jaw. Colorado went on to win the series, knocking the Wings out of the playoffs in '96.
Draper returned to the line up for the '96-'97 season and Lemieux wasn't playing in the first two matches between the teams and when he returned to the line up for the third Colorado/Detroit game of the season, the refs kept things pretty much under control.
It was that fourth game on March 26, 1997 that all Hell broke loose at the 18:22 mark of the first period. There was a score that still needed to be settled for that hit that put Draper in the hospital the season before. And the entire team was going to stand up for him.
Draper says about that night, "Exactly 301 days after I had my face caved in, my teammates stood up for me. We settled it. But this is what a lot of people don’t remember: For the players on the ice, that night wasn’t just about the fight. That night was about proving that we could beat Colorado on the scoreboard." Check out his story "There Will Be Blood" about the incident on theplayerstribune.com.
The big brawl starts at about 1:45 in the video below that even involved goalies Mike Vernon and Patrick Roy.