Top 10 Red Wings Rivals: #2 Colorado Avalanche


(EDITOR’S NOTE: This is part 9 of 10 in a series on rivalries. Red Wings 101 will count down the top ten current rivals of the Detroit Red Wings. Fans are encouraged to comment with memories from past games that they may have seen in the past.)

It’s now down to the final two. Many fans will argue that this next team should be number 1 on the list, but I will leave the debating up to them. Without further ado: Colorado Avalanche.

Detroit and Colorado has probably been the most famous blood feud in the NHL in the last 20 years. The two have been rivals ever since the Quebec City Nordiques moved to Denver and were renamed the Avalanche in 1995.

Both teams have met six times in the playoffs, and they have each won three series a piece. They also combined to win five Stanley Cups between 1996 and 2002.

The rivalry was not really intensified until the Avalanche made a trade for goaltender Patrick Roy two days after he had played his last game for the Montreal Canadiens, which ironically was against the Red Wings. During that game, Roy allowed nine goals. With Roy now in Colorado, that would only gave the Red Wings more opportunities to still be a thorn in his side.

While the rivalry has been considered intense, a lot of that intensity has died down since the 2004-05 lockout. The last playoff meeting between the teams was in 2008, which the Red Wings swept 4-0 en route to the Stanley Cup.

DEFINING MOMENT: There is a long list of moments in this rivalry. But the most defining moment happened over a period of almost one year. The straw that broke the camel’s back was during the 1996 Western Conference Finals. During Game 6, Colorado forward Claude Lemieux hit Red Wings forward Kris Draper from behind into the boards. Lemieux was ejected from the game and given a two-game suspension. Fans and players vehemently argued that he should have been suspended longer given that Draper suffered a broken jaw, shattered cheek bone, and broken orbital bone that required reconstructive surgery and his jaw to be wired shut. Adding insult to injury was the fact that the Avalanche won the game and the series. After the traditional handshake line was finished, Red Wings forward Dino Ciccarelli said of Lemieux, “I can’t believe I shook the guy’s freaking hand. That just pisses me right off.”

Colorado went on to win the Stanley Cup.

The powder keg finally exploded March 26, 1997 during a game at Joe Louis Arena. The game, known as “Bloody Wednesday” or “Fight Night at the Joe,” would feature nine fights.

The first fight was between defensemen Brent Sevryn (Colorado) and Jamie Pushor (Detroit) at 4:45 in the first. Forwards Kirk Maltby (Detroit) and Rene Corbet fought at 10:14.

The fights that would have made UFC Commissioner Dana White proud occurred at 18:22. It all began when Red Wings forward Igor Larionov and Avalanche forward Peter Forsberg dropped the gloves after a collision. Right after that began, Red Wings forward Darren McCarty sought retribution on Lemieux and caught him with a right hook. McCarty continued to land punches on Lemieux after he had fallen to the ice, and eventually dragged him to the boards and kneed him in the head before the officials restrained him

Roy saw what was happening to Lemieux, and skated out of the net to help his teammate, only to be greeted by Red Wings forward Brendan Shanahan, who delivered an open ice hit. Shanahan then bounced into the grasp of Avalanche defenseman Adam Foote. While they tangled, Red Wings goaltender Mike Vernon attempted to help Shanahan, but Roy got to him first. Vernon and Roy would then drop the gloves, blockers, and masks to fight each other.

Forsberg and Larionov both received roughing penalties, with Forsberg leaving the game due to injury. Vernon and Roy both received roughing penalties and fighting majors. Roy also had to receive multiple stitches courtesy of his bout with Vernon. McCarty received a double minor roughing penalty (something that did not sit well with Avalanche head coach Marc Crawford, who felt McCarty should have been ejected.) There was also a lot of blood on the ice from the Vernon/Roy fight and the McCarty/Lemieux incident.

15 seconds after play resumed, Red Wings defenseman Vladimir Konstantinov and Avalanche forward Adam Deadmarsh would fight each other. That would conclude the fighting for the first period.

In the second, Shanahan and Foote resumed there fight from the first four seconds into the period. Two fights broke out at 3:34 between Avalanche forward Mike Keane and Red Wings forward Tomas Holmstrom, and Red Wings defenseman Aaron Ward and Sevryn. (The latter two were both tossed for starting a separate fight.) McCarty and Deadmarsh dropped the gloves at 7:24, and Pushor and Avalanche defenseman Uwe Krupp would fight at 11:26.

After 60 minutes of play, the score was tied at 5. McCarty would score the game winner in overtime, giving the Red wings a 6-5 win.

After the game, Vernon, who won his 300th career game, said that the game “brought the Red Wings together in time for the playoffs.” Radio play-by-play man Ken Kal called the game a turning point for the team. Crawford complained that McCarty should have been ejected for his fight with Lemieux.

Less than two months later, both teams met again in the Western Conference Finals. During Game 4 at the Joe, which was another penalty-fest, Crawford was caught on camera screaming profane language at Red Wings head coach Scotty Bowman after Shanahan and Corbet both got into a fight. The Red Wings would win the game 6-0, and Crawford was fined $10,000 for his outburst. The Red Wings would win the series in Game 6 en route to winning the Stanley Cup.

The following season when both teams met at the Joe November 11, 1997, McCarty and Lemieux had a rematch right from the start of the game, only Lemieux got more punches in this time than round one.

Another brawl occurred April 1, 1998 at the Joe, and the fight everyone was talking about was between Roy and Chris Osgood. The game, which the Red Wings won 2-0 had a combined 228 penalty minutes.

Things remained settled down until March 23, 2002, almost five years to the date of the ’97 incident. This one began when Maltby crashed into the Colorado net, and  Roy was not pleased. Red Wings netminder Dominik Hasek came skating down to go after Roy, but he tripped over a loose stick. He still managed to knock Roy over. Both goalies dropped the gloves, but were restrained by the officials.

The teams would once again meet in the Western Conference Finals. In a winner-take-all Game 7 at the Joe, the Red Wings chased Roy after he gave up six goals. The Red Wings would win the game 7-0, and would go on to win the Stanley Cup. As for Roy, he was never the same after that game, and he eventually retired after the 2003 season.

After Roy retired, the rivalry died down. The teams met in the 2008 Western Conference Semifinals, but it wasn’t much of a series, as the Red Wings would record a 4-0 sweep after an 8-2 shellacking in Game 4.

Despite the rivalry dying down, a Detroit-Colorado game is always well attended whether at the Joe or at the Pepsi Center in Denver.


No. 10: Montreal Canadiens
No. 9: Toronto Maple Leafs
No. 8: Vancouver Canucks
No. 7: Anaheim Ducks
No. 6: St. Louis Blues
No. 5: Pittsburgh Penguins
No. 4: San Jose Sharks
No. 3: Nashville Predators

Be sure to check out other great articles at Sports Media 101.