OT: On this day, 15 years ago...

Submitted by pasadenablue on March 26th, 2012 at 6:11 PM

What does the date March 26, 1997 mean to you?


Today is the 15 year anniversary of what I consider to be the single most significant game in modern Red Wings history.

In a single game, the Wings were able to exorcise the demons of a playoff series past, launch themselves towards their first of four Cups over the next 11 years, and cemented the Wings-Avs rivalry as one of the best of its era.

I still remember listening to this game on my walkman radio while following my parents around as they got their taxes done by a real accountant.  The rush of elation and joy after McCarty scored in OT was something I'll never forget.  I was hooked on the Wings for life.  We'd won the game AND we'd won the fight.  And that bastard Claude Lemieux had answered for his crimes.  And even Patty Roy had gotten his face bloodied.  It was sublime.


Here's what I believe is a mostly-full replay of the game (minus commercials/intermissions).  Embedding for that vid is not allowed by yootoob.



For the fight alone, here you are:






March 26th, 2012 at 8:59 PM ^

How did a regular-season victory exorcise the demons?  Wasn't the playoff series victory over the Avs that spring more meaningful?  (Plus, didn't the Wings actually perform worse in the 1996-97 regular season than they did the two previous years?)



March 26th, 2012 at 9:03 PM ^

we'd lost the three previous meeting to the avs that regular season.

we were able to finally avenge kris draper's injury.

we bloodied both lemieux and roy, public enemies #1 and #2.


the avs were presidents trophy winners that year and also had the #1 offense.  they were the team to beat.  the wings were 2nd in the central (behind dallas) that win gave the wings the confidence that they could stand up to the avs, who'd really pushed us around the previous year.  it helped that team believe that they could stand up to the avs in a 7-game series, when the chips were on the table.  it really washed away the bitter taste that had never really left the previous year, when we'd won 62 games and couldn't even make the cup finals.


the thing is that, back then, nobody doubted the wings ability to do it in the regular season.  they'd won several presidents trophies up that point in the 90s.  they just couldn't get it done in the playoffs.  this game changed the atmosphere and feel around the locker room.


this game was a watershed, galvanizing moment that opened the floodgates on the red wings dynasty.


March 26th, 2012 at 9:39 PM ^

But if no one doubted the Wings' ability to get it done in the regular season, why did a regular-season win mean that much?

I think the game's been overrated in retrospect.  The year before, didn't they get "payback" on the Devils in the regular season?  Because they went on to lose to Colorado, no one ended up caring about that. 

IIRC, in the '97 conference finals, didn't the Avs win Game 1 and take the lead in Game 2?  They were close to being up 2-0 in the series, but the Wings rallied to steal that game and home ice.  I'd argue that that was the turning point.


March 26th, 2012 at 10:27 PM ^

i guess what im saying is, that without this win, the wings probably aren't in a position to do what they do in the postseason that year.  remember, they had a tough first two series before meeting the avs.  the wings were tied 2-2 against the blues, with our two losses being shutouts, before pulling away (after a stevie y speech).  that series was a dogfight.  even in the sweep against the ducks in the 2nd round, we played 3 OT games, with a total of 6 OT periods played.

against the avs, we played well in the first game, but roy stood on his head.  we did fall behind in game 2, but came back, won a big game in game 3, and then had the famous "i knew your father before you did, and he wouldnt be real proud of you" scotty bowman-marc crawford incident.  then we got blown out in game 5.  then we finally pulled it out in game 6.

i dunno, we'll probably never agree.  that march 26th game just felt so important, because of the pantomime and excitement.  we came back to win the game.  the fight wouldnt have mattered if we'd lost.  and of all people to score the game winning goal, it was darren.  he became an instant hero in hockeytown.  it gave us wings fans hope.

rationally, yeah, the playoff series was more important.  but this game, the emotion and the attitude of "don't fuck with us, or you'll get stomped" - it lit a spark in that team.  it brought the team together like nothing else in the world could.  not only that, it rallied the entire city, the entire fanbase.  we were ready to go.


March 26th, 2012 at 10:25 PM ^

were unbelievable in the regular season.  Then come the playoffs the Avs beat their asses.  They crushed Draper, won the series, and then went on to win the cup.  The next year they continued to tear up the league and in particular they beat Detroit three games straight.  There was the impression that Colorado was in Detroits head.  It just seemed that Detroit could be as good as they wanted to be but they still couldn't beat Colorado.  You can argue that the turning point happened in the playoffs when Detroit came back from one game down and playing from behind in game two but the confidence they needed to even make that comeback happen was forged in the come from behind victory on March 26th 1997.  It was in that game (march 26th) that Detroit proved to themselves that they could beat the Colorado Avalanche. 


March 26th, 2012 at 10:33 PM ^

yes,  this.  thank you.

as a fan, especially as a young fan (i was 10 at the time), it was frustrating.  i expected the wings to win.  when they didn't i couldn't fathom why.  the avs, especially with how lemieux got away with the draper hit with a pithy 2-game suspension (that hit would be a series ban in the playoffs or a 10-game regular season ban today), got in all of our heads.  they were our kryptonite.  beating them, especially the way we did, adding insult to (numerous) injuries, was such a cathartic experience.


March 27th, 2012 at 11:17 AM ^

I am sure you meant to say, they (Claude L.) illiegally/cowardly checked Draper in the boards ending his season and nearly his career and then went on to publically proclaim that if it wasn't for him Draper would be unknown. Then they won the series...


fixed that for you...(sorry, I have held onto that anger for 15yrs).




March 27th, 2012 at 12:12 PM ^

I knew that that particular tangent would have resulted in a rant lasting more than a few paragraphs.  So in order to keep things on topic I substituted the word "they".

Claude was a POS but I do have to thank him for galvanizing the 97 Wings.  The rivalry with Colorado taught Detroit what they needed to learn in order to become Stanley Cup Champions.  They were already a very skilled team but from that experience with the Avs the Wings learned how to play with an attitude of toughness, a determination to win every battle every race, contest every shot, in your face, drop the gloves, never-say-die effort needed to win hockey's Holy Grail.  From that series forward the Wings were not going to be pushed around by anybody.  If a team wanted to play a hard checking game...great!  They had McCarty, Kocur, Draper, Shanahan, Maltby, Lapointe, and even Fedorov for that.  If a team wanted to play an up tempo finesse game...great!  We had the guns for that type of game too.  Not only could Detroit play any type of game the opponent wanted, Detroit could play that game better than them.  Colorado was simply the last hurdle because Colorado was like a mirror image of Detroit.  They had hard checkers, fighters, goal scorers, strong defense, and a world class goalie.  They could play any type of game like Detroit.  They were so even in their skillsets that the difference between being a winner and a loser was razor thin.  The difference would not have anything to do with physicality at all.  The difference was mental toughness.  This is what the Avs brought to Detroit that they lacked in previous Cup runs, mental toughness.  And after they vanquished the Avs in six games...Philly just never had a chance.


March 26th, 2012 at 9:04 PM ^

You must not have been a huge fan then. Awesome game! Igor started it, which was even more crazy. I just got tickets to Columbus vs Wings today in Columbus. I was at the Blue Jackets store today. The kid says hey do you know what happened 15 years ago today? I had no idea until he brought it up. I am glad I had training in Columbus this week. I get to see the wings kick some ass Wednesday.


March 26th, 2012 at 9:05 PM ^

On the radio as I was driving to Milwaukee for the Frozen Four. The Wings game was a classic, the Frozen Four not so much. But the brewery tour was good.


March 26th, 2012 at 9:09 PM ^

I was watching this game, in Colorado no less, and when the Wings were down 2 late, I gave up on them and changed the channel.  Apparently no less than a minute before all heck broke loose.  

Never again.  I watch until the final second.  Period.

I've always thought Adam Foote was a bigger pussy then Claude.  I'm sure Cindy Crosby learned to cry from watching Foote.


March 26th, 2012 at 9:29 PM ^

As someone who didn't follow the wings till ~5 years ago, watching the video of the fight I thought 'man that was kind of a cheap shot to Lemieux" then I went and watched the video of Lemieux's hit on Draper and then watched the fight video over again and took great satisfaction in seeing Lemieux get his clock cleaned


March 26th, 2012 at 9:41 PM ^

If this happened today, both teams would probably be suspended for their entire next game. I hate the fact that they've completely taken fighting out of hockey.


March 26th, 2012 at 9:59 PM ^

     i was given tickets to that game by a vendor and took my sons.  it was the FIRST hockey game they attended and they couldn't stop talking about it afterwards.  one of them asked if all hockey games were like that and i had to tell him no-we were just very lucky that night.


March 26th, 2012 at 10:46 PM ^

That was the first season of any sport I can remember that really brought my entire family together. Oh, my mom and sister watched Michigan in the Rose Bowl, but they weren't into it in quite the same way. Really, I was only just starting to become aware of sports in a big way myself. I was a bit of a late bloomer like that.

But when the Wings and Avs met that season, we all crowded around the TV to watch, and we all celebrated as McCarty kicked ass. I remember thinking that there was no way those two guys could be on the ice with eachother ever again. The next time they played, they proved it, too.

From the opening puck drop. Awesome.

Wenham Wolverine

March 27th, 2012 at 1:03 AM ^

I watched the '96 conference finals game 6 in a hotel with my dad.
It is my earliest memory of watching a whole game, I was furious along with him when Claude broke Draper's face, and when it was final I was as heart broken as a 6 year old could be.

Fight Night at the Joe was sweet, sweet revenge to my depraved little heart.


March 27th, 2012 at 1:25 AM ^

Thank you so much for marking the anniversary and even more for including the clip of the fight. I so hated the Avs back in the day, but I had long since forgotten the reasons why. Claude, Claude, Claude… you MF douche bag… may a tricycle clip your walker and cause you to face plant on a curb and come up looking like Draper you dirty piece of shit.


March 27th, 2012 at 2:56 AM ^

Thanks for posting this. The couple years before and after this were among the most memorable ones for Detroit and Michigan sports fans in a generation. The wings avs rivalry was every bit intense as any in pro sports. Plus the Michigan championships at that time weren't so bad either!


March 27th, 2012 at 8:50 AM ^

Lemieux didn't get half of what he deserved, but what he got ruined him.  Of all the major sports, hockey is probably the one that has the best "code of honor."  Lemieux was known as dirty, but he was respected.  

After that game, nobody in the league had any respect for him anymore.  When Lemieux became "The Turtle," it seemed to take some of the edge off of his game. He would even win another Cup, and have what appears to be a decent life around the game after retiring, but he was never the same force, especially in the playoffs, that he was before becoming The Turtle.  

He should have just gone down valiantly and taken his medicine.



March 27th, 2012 at 9:42 AM ^

The turtle pose was the pic on the front page of the sports section in the Detroit News the following day.  Oh how the thug had fallen. 

When the Wings won game 2 against the Avs a few months later, I remember the shot of Patrick Roy throwing a tantrum and breaking his stick in disgust after it was all over.  Too bad that wasn't featured in the paper. 

Blue in Yarmouth

March 27th, 2012 at 10:26 AM ^

from someone who isn't a Wings fan or an Av's fan (though I do like the wings, just not my fav. team) I enjoyed this clip a lot. I miss the days where there were fights like this in hockey.

I will say that I have always been a fan of Roy's abilities, not so much his character and seeing him bloodied was nice. Lemieux though...I have never liked aplayer any less than him. It's funny because both p[layed for my favorite team once (the Canadiens) but I was never very fond of either one, especially Lemieux who I loved seeing getting his ass handed to him by McCarty. That was long overdue.

Now to be honest, as a former CHLer and one who often took on the enforcer role I will say openly that I am probably more tolerant of fighting in hockey than others. I want to say that because what I am about to say isn't implying that I have an issue with this, but I want to draw a parallel:

Watching McCarthy go after Lemieux in that clip isn't very different from the Bertuzzi incident that had so many people up in arms. Lemieux wasn't seriously hurt, but that shouldn't matter since it is the actions of the player that are being judged and not the outcome. At least Moore knew something was coming whereas Lemiuex was completely blindsided. and then pounded once he hit the ice. 

In Bertuzzi's case, he was tugging on Moore for a few seconds and Moore just kept trying to get away, then he jumped him. Moore knew (or should have known) something was coming. 

Now again, I don't hink either one of these instances were objectionable, just giving my two cents as I was blasted by many here for sticking up for Bertuzzi a while back in a thread on here. I would expect many who blasted me for that would see nothing wrong with McCarty's actions even though they are pretty similar.

In both cases the players deserved what they got IMHE. Moore had a recent history with Naslund and knew he was a target going into the game. Lemieux had always been one of the dirtiest players in the NHL and just got what was coming to him. Again, I have no issue with either instance, but if someone has a problem with one an not the other I would be curious to hear how that's possible.


March 27th, 2012 at 10:54 AM ^

I wouldn't say I'm fine with McCarty's original hit (I was seven when I saw this live on TV and the only part I remember was the goalie fight because, yea) after seeing it for the first time in a long time, but there are a few things to consider.

  1. Lemiuex didn't have his neck broken/career ended. Whether that's fair to Bertuzzi or not is another question, but there's no doubt that "NHL player out for life after cheapshot" is a much bigger headline, and black eye on the sport than "NHL player gets bloody nose, eye swollen shut in team brawl".
  2. Bertuzzi hit Moore almost directly from behind. While McCarty didn't exactly square up with Lemiuex, the hit looks much less vicious as he was skating almost alongside him.
  3. There is an awful lot of stuff that went on in the NHL in the 1990's that simply wouldn't be tolerated in today's NHL. If you want to look back even further, Gordie Howe would probably be suspended 20-25 games a season in the Shanahan era of the NHL. The game has changed over time, including perceptions of ethical fighting behavior.


March 27th, 2012 at 10:55 AM ^

I meant to add this last night: Anyone who considers themselves a fan of this rivalry needs to run out and buy this book if they don't already have it:


It's written by a Denver Post writer but it is indeed "fair and balanced."  Essential reading for any Wings fan.  It is, quite simply, the Three And Out of the Detroit-Colorado rivalry.  Fascinating stuff.