Say March 26, 1997, to a hockey fan, and they should immediately know what you’re talking about. It was the night that became known as Fight Night at the Joe, and it’s still one of the most memorable nights in hockey history. Colorado had ended Detroit’s season in the playoffs one year earlier, and when the teams played their fourth game of the regular season, all hell broke loose.
It all started with Igor Larionov of the Red Wings and Peter Forsberg of the Avalanche wrestling near the bench. One year earlier, in the game that ended the Red Wings season, Avalanche forward Claude Lemieux tackled Kris Draper from behind and into the boards.
Draper got injured badly, and when that fight started between Larionov and Forsberg, Red Wings enforcer Darren McCarty took the opportunity to get revenge. McCarty wrestled down Lemieux and hammered blows to the head. Patrick Roy then got into a fight with Brendan Shanahan, Adam Foote got involved, and Red Wings goalie Mike Vernon of course also left his goal to be a part of what became one of the biggest brawls of NHL history.
As the blood dried up along the rink, the Red Wings went to the dressing room, and it was then that Darren McCarty realized something.
”We sort of wanted to watch the winning goal, but we wanted to see the fight and obviously the whole arena saw Vernon, and Roy, Roy and I coming mid-air, and our bench saw it, Colorado’s bench saw it, the commentators were going crazy, the hockey world was watching this game and when Darren saw it, he had no idea any of it occurred,” says Brandan Shanahan.
”He thought it was just him and Lemieux. He had no idea Vernon was fighting, he had no idea any of this was happening. And he played the whole game thinking that whole riot was just him on top of Lemieux. He didn’t realize the crime scene that was going on around him, while this was happening, with the highlight being a little Mike Vernon throwing a wild left haymaker and cutting Roy of the eye.”
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