Yesterday in Detroit, memories of one of great moments in Detroit sports history were rehashed when Darren McCarty and Claude Lemieux sat next to each other at an autograph signing. For those who don’t remember, it was 14 years ago last week when McCarty went after Lemieux in an on-ice brawl between the Detroit Red Wings and Colorado Avalanche. It started the season before that, in 1996 when Lemieux boarded Kris Draper head first into the boards. Lemieux’s hit caused Draper to land face first in front of the Red Wings’ bench, where there is no plexiglas. Draper suffered a concussion, broken jaw, broken nose, and a broken cheekbone. His jaw was wired shut for more than a month.
Lemieux was unwilling to apologize for the hit, which made McCarty fueled with anger that had to wait over nine months for it to be let out. “I have nothing to say bad about Claude as a person — off the ice,” McCarty said in a recent interview. “But as a player, no, I don’t have respect for him. He played the way he did, and I’ll be the first to tell you he took Drapes’ face.”
Lemieux was suspended only two games and fined $1,000. NHL players today only wished they were suspended two games and fined $1,000 for less infractions such as checking to the head.
McCarty credits the March 26, 1997 fight, where he also scored the game-winning goal in overtime, as the spark the Red Wings needed on their way to the Stanley Cup in 1997. In addition to the fights with Lemieux, McCarty is also known on the ice for scoring the Stanley Cup-clinching goal against Philadelphia. He said on 97.1 The Ticket Friday afternoon “I’ve only beaten two people one-on-one in my career, and that was one of them.”
The rivalry arguably began May 29, 1996 and ended May 31, 2002 between the Avalanche and Red Wings was one of the greatest in the history of the NHL, something that hasn’t been seen in the new style of the NHL that demphasize fighting and good rivalries. As told in the Adrian Dater book “Blood Feud“, the rivalry met it’s end when Detroit beat Colorado 7-0 in game seven of the 2002 Conference Finals. In the coming seasons afterward, major players in the rivalry such as Lemieux, McCarty, Peter Forsberg, and Patrick Roy either retired or moved on to other teams.
McCarty currently works in media, where he makes occasional appearances on NHL Network and 97.1 The Ticket (WXYT) in Detroit. He guest hosted a show Friday afternoon, where he talked about how he is able to set aside the angst he still has for Lemieux and can sign autographs of the fight for a couple hours. He did say, that he was “Not going to go out and have a beer with him afterward.” He also said that the autograph signing is “simply business” and that if asked, he would travel to Denver to do a similiar autograph appearance.
Prices ranged from $5 for an individual autograph to $65 for a signed picture of both players.
For videos involving the fights between the two teams, visit the links below:
May 29, 1996, where Lemieux checked Draper face-first into the boards. Play is at the :53 mark.
March 26, 1997brawl between McCarty and Lemieux.
November 11, 1997fight at the opening faceoff between McCarty and Lemieux.