Avalanche, Red Wings revisit classic NHL rivalry for Stadium Series

The Colorado Avalanche and the Detroit Red Wings meet on the 20th anniversary of one of the most infamous fights in their rivalry.

20 years ago Colorado, Detroit ignited epic feud in playoffs

Colorado Avalanche forward Claude Lemieux was at the centre of most of the action in the teams rivalry with the Detroit Red Wings through the 1990s. (Tim DeFrisco/Getty Images)

The Detroit Red Wings and the Colorado Avalanche combined for five Stanley Cups from 1996-2002, so it's no wonder that the two teams were also involved in one of the NHL's greatest rivalries during that span.

On the 20-year anniversary of the bad blood that was first generated in the 1996 Western Conference finals, the teams will face off Saturday in an outdoor Stadium Series match and an alumni game on Friday in Colorado.

Here's a look back at some of the moments that cemented this rivalry as one of the league's best:

Teams meet in playoffs for 1st time

Detroit dominated the 1995-96 season, easily beating out Colorado for the President's Trophy by a 27-point margin. But they could not extend that success when they met for the first time in the playoffs.

The series often saw Avalanche winger Claude Lemieux at the centre of drama.

Some argue the start of it came when Detroit's Slava Kozlov ran Adam Foote face-first into the boards in Game 3 and Lemieux responded with a sucker-punch to Kozlov later in the Red Wings' 6-4 victory.

Of course, Detroit went after Lemieux in Game 5, as Vladimir Konstantinov laid him out with one of the best hits you'll ever see to help his team extend the series.

Lemieux takes out Draper

With Colorado just one win away from moving on to the Stanley Cup Finals, Lemieux pounded Red Wings centre Kris Draper with a dirty hit from behind. Draper sustained a broken jaw, cheek and orbital bone, which required surgery to repair. The Avalanche went on to claim the series 4-2 with a 4-1 win in the game, but the events of Game 6 would have a lasting impact on the rivalry.

Colorado won the Stanley Cup, sweeping the Florida Panthers in the final.

Bloody Wednesday

Fast forward to the next season and the most infamous battle between the clubs. "Bloody Wednesday," "Fight Night at the Joe," and "Brawl in Hockeytown" were a few monikers that emerged following an unparalleled line brawl in a game on Mar. 26, 1997.

A seemingly innocent shove erupted as the teams combined for nine fights and 148 penalty minutes over the course of the 6-5 overtime victory for the Red Wings. Even Avalanche goalie Patrick Roy duked it out with Mike Vernon.

McCarty-Lemieux go for round 2

Many accused Lemieux of "turtling" while being battered by Red Wings' Darren McCarty during the brawl. Eight months later, he proved he wasn't done with Lemieux when the puck dropped in another match at the Joe.

Roy gets in on the action

Patrick Roy also kept the fists flying well after the brawl, but the current Avalanche bench boss had a new sparring partner in Detroit goalie Chris Osgood on Apr. 1, 1998.

With this kind of history, the alumni game could be the one to watch this weekend. A fight is pretty unlikely as most former players are well into their 40's, but the rosters include many involved in the storied rivalry.

Detroit Red Wings roster: Doug Brown, Kris Draper, Jiri Fischer, Tomas Holmstrom, Joe Kocur, Martin Lapointe, Nicklas Lidstrom, Kirk Maltby, Larry Murphy, Dino Ciccarelli, Steve Duchesne,Brendan Shanahan, Steve Yzerman, Chris Chelios, Darren McCarty, Igor Larionov, Mike Knuble, Ty Conklin, Manny Legace.

Colorado Avalanche roster: Craig Billington, Rob Blake, Ray Bourque, Adam Foote, Peter Forsberg, Claude Lemieux, Curtis Leschyshyn, Sandis Ozolinsh, Mike Ricci, Patrick Roy, Joe Sakic, Chris Simon, Stephane Yelle, Milan Hejduk, Dan Hinote, Valeri Kamensky, Mike Keane, Jon Klemm, Eric Messier, Shjon Podein.


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