25 March 2010

History Beckons: The greatest Wings game of all time

When it comes to Wings games, it's easy for me to narrow down my absolute favorite.

04 June 2008 - The Wings scrape by in a tight 3-2 win on away ice to win their first post-lockout Cup.
  • Nope.
07 June 1997 - The Wings win their 8th Stanley Cup, ending a 42 year drought. Stevie Y, The Captain, finally lifts Lord Stanley's Chalice for the first time.
  • Close, but not quite.
My all-time favorite game - perhaps the game that changed my status from "fan" to "fanatic motherfucker" - took place on 26 March 1997. It is known simply as "The Brawl."

There are a lot of "The"s involved in "The Brawl." The Red Wings v. The Avalanche, at the heart of The Rivalry. It was the first game that The Turtle was in the lineup since The Incident.

Any Wings fan knows about this game. For me, it's the first time I became convinced that my team was going to win the Stanley Cup and absolutely nothing would stand in their way. Hell, I'm still convinced that this game provided that extra spark that lead to back to back championships. Who knows, maybe it didn't have the same effect on the players. But for the fans... it's still a galvanizing event in Red Wings history.

So why write a recap of a game that happened 13 years ago? Well, why did Homer write The Iliad? Why did Tolkien write The Lord of the Ringe? Why did Minna Unchi write Everybody Poops?

No. Not peyote. The shit is simply inspirational.

To truly understand this game, the events of another date are essential: 29 May 1996. The Date of The Incident, Game 6 of the Western Conference Finals. On that date, claude "less than human" lemieux  took the cheapshot of all cheapshots (capitalization intentional; dude doesn't deserve the respect that a proper noun denotes). All Wings fans remember the day clod came remember the day clod came from behind on a puck-less Draper and slammed his face into the barrier between the bench and the ice. Draper's face was shattered, requiring surgery and his jaw to be wired shut for months. nce that day, lemieux has expressed little regret for his gutless actions. Whether he admits it or not, however, there is one thing he surely regrets:
  • He picked the wrong fucking guy to cream.
To be sure, the Wings would have been infuriated with the turtle regardless of who he decided to hurt. But he took a cheapshot on a guy who just happened to be best friends with the greatest teammate of all time: Darren Motherfucking McCarty. I'm guessing if clod had the gray matter to crank out a book, one of the life lessons he might pass down would include the following:
  • Don't ever cheapshot a guy who's best man at his wedding is absolutely anything like Darren McCarty.
See, Mac was the teams enforcer, and good lord few could enforce like Mac. Dude had fists of hammers and the tenacity of a rabid wolverine. The key point: he's not a guy you fuck with.

Mac also happened to be the guy that stood by Drapes's side, helping him through his assuredly painful recovery. He carried around the pliers, just in case the wires holding his jaw shut needed to be cut to prevent him from choking on his own food or vomit. He watched, while his best friend suffered. He watched, and he waited.

Fast forward to 26 March 1997. The Wings faced the hated Av's at home. They'd faced them three other times since the incident, but each time the turtle didn't take the ice. The 26th was different. Finally, lemieux was in the lineup. Finally, he'd pay.

The game started a little chippy. Valeri Kamenski put the Av's up 1-0 3:29 into the game. Jamie Pushor and Brent Seveyrn dropped the gloves for a mostly unremarkable fight early on. Maltby and Corbet exchanged a few punches in the middle of a scrum that the refs broke up quickly. Things were tense, and the atmosphere was certainly different from just any other regular home game.

Then, out of nowhere, the two most unlikely candidates to start a line brawl got tangled up at the boards. The Professor, Igor Larionov, and Doctor Glass-Bones, Peter Forsberg, started into it with a bit of a wrestling match. Forsberg delivered an extra punch to Larionov's head after a hit, to which Igor returned the favor. Soon the two were tangled up and wrestled to the ice. The refs skated over to break up the melee and the skaters on the ice started to pair off.

Near center ice, close to the Red Wing bench, a scrum. Players shoved and grabbed as the linesman futilely attempted to separate them and maintain order on the ice. One grabbed a hold of McCarty, separating him from the altercation. Skating close by, however, not paired up with an opponent, was the turtle himself. He inched closer, and it became clear that Mac saw him out of the corner of his eye. He had to be aware public enemy #1 was on the ice, and he had to know that he was about to uphold his promise to his best friend. "Don't worry. I'll take care of it."

And take care of it he did. Quickly, he broke lose from the grasp of the referee, turned, and caught lemiuex with a powerful right hook to the side of the head.

That was about it for lemiuex.

Now, throughout the course of history, men have attempted to predict the future. They've studied the past, analyzed the present, and took wild shots in the dark to what the future may hold. However, in this particular case, it's not that surprising what happened next. Because when - throughout the course of a career - a player acts like a bitch, and that same player plays like a bitch, well... it's pretty likely that when he's decked in the side of the head by one of the scrappiest motherfuckers in the league:
  • He's going to turtle like a bitch.
the turtle hit the ice, tucked his head between his arms, and prayed for mercy. His prayers would go unanswered. D Mac threw his gloves in the air as he descended to the ice, ready to avenge his teammate. Ready to show that as long as #25 skates in the Winged Wheel, it's not a wise decision to take liberties. Ready to make history.

Mac grabbed the turtle and dragged him from his head-in-the-sand position. He tore off clods helmet and lifted his head to get the shot he needed. He pulled the trigger. With the enemy's head in his right hand, he delivered two crushing lefts. Like wrecking balls, he drove his fists into lemieux's face, taking from it payment for prior indiscretion. Mac stood, and dragged clod in full turtle position toward the Red Wing bench. He took him to essentially the same spot that 301 days earlier his victim had been the aggressor. He dragged him to the boards, right in front of his teammate. The same teammate that he had helped recover. The same teammate that was so gutlessly driven into the dashers. He took him to the boards and right in front of Kris Draper, he delivered his final blows. He drove his knee into the bitch and made certain that he regretted those gutless actions for which he had yet to answer.

As if that were not enough.

The night was filled with excitement. From what in my book ranks as the greatest goalie fight of all time in Vernon v. Roy to Mac's game winning goal in overtime, this was - by far - the greatest Wings game of all time.

As we celebrate the anniversary of this hallowed game, I can't help but miss that aspect of the Wings. The scrappiness. Hell, perhaps that why I was so excited when Jimmah bitchslapped Rosby right in the head. Or why I was super behind Brad May in the beginning of the season when he was clearly willing to scrap. Mac is one of my favorite players of all time. Dude could score goals (Game 4 later that year anyone?) and was the ultimate teammate. He'd drop the gloves at a moment's notice, and honestly, I think this team could use a bit more of that. In that spirit:

At least in spirit. Add him to the FS-D broadcast. Sit him down next to Ken Kal. Do what you've gotta do, but the more Mac spirit that's infused into this team, the better.

Oh yeah... and because of 26 March 1997... put 25 up there with 1, 7, 9, 10, 12, and 19.

You know... right after #6... we don't need any more of Aurie's Revenge.


  1. Don't you mean March 26 1997?

  2. Don't you mean March 26th 1997? Had 2007 in there twice.

  3. Ah, good catch! Talk about a brain fart. Thanks for the heads up! Should be fixed now

  4. You should consider writing a book -- the fan version. Excellent!

  5. Wings_Fan_In_KC says -------->

    Man, that was the best f*cking write of the Fight Night at The Joe I have ever read. I want to go punch someone in the face right now. McCarty and the whole Wings squad watched and waited that year until the time was right.

    Fight Night at the Joe during a 6-5 Red Wings OT win over the Avs during which retribution for Draper's injuries was handed out - what could have been better?

    Penalties: Young, Col (interference), 1:20; Severyn, Col (fighting major), 4:45; Pushor, Det (fighting major), 4:45; Sakic, Col (interference), 5:12; Corbet, Col (fighting major), 10:14; Maltby, Det (fighting major), 10:14; Draper, Det (roughing), 10:14; Forsberg, Col (roughing), 18:22; Roy, Col (roughing, fighting major), 18:22; Larionov, Det (roughing), 18:22; Vernon, Det (roughing, fighting major), 18:22; Mccarty, Det ( double roughing minor), 18:22; Deadmarsh, Col (cross checking, fighting major), 18:37; Konstantinov, Det (fighting major), 18:37.

    Penalties: Foote, Col (fighting major), 0:04; Shanahan, Det (fighting major), 0:04; Lapointe, Det (roughing), 0:56; Severyn, Col (fighting major, game misconduct), 3:34; Keane, Col (fighting major), 3:34; Ward, Det (fighting major, game misconduct), 3:34; Holmstrom, Det (fighting major), 3:34; Deadmarsh, Col (fighting major), 7:24; Mccarty, Det (roughing, fighting major), 7:24; Krupp, Col (fighting major), 11:26; Pushor, Det (fighting major), 11:26; Deadmarsh, Col
    (interference), 14:47; Young, Col (hooking), 18:38.

    Penalties: Ozolinsh, Col (cross checking, roughing), 6:26; Maltby, Det (roughing), 6:26; Pushor, Det (holding), 14:40; Ozolinsh, Col (tripping), 16:07.