The Detroit Red Wings–Colorado Avalanche Brawl was a large-scale on-ice melee that occurred March 26, 1997, at Joe Louis Arena in Detroit, Michigan between two NHL rivals: the Detroit Red Wings and the Colorado Avalanche.
The brawl has been nicknamed "Bloody Wednesday," "Fight Night at the Joe" and "Brawl in Hockeytown" which was stemmed from a previous on-ice incident between the two teams during the 1996 Western Conference Finals.
The hit sent Draper out of the game and into the hospital with a broken jaw, shattered cheek and orbital bone (which required reconstructive surgery involving his jaw being wired shut and numerous stitches).
The Avalanche would upset the Red Wings in six games, eventually winning the Stanley Cup.
After the traditional handshakes that take place after a playoff series, former Red Wings winger Dino Ciccarelli said of Lemieux, "I can't believe I shook the guy's frigging hand."
In the next regular season (although the two teams had played each other three times without incident), this fourth meeting on the night of March 26, 1997 was different with nine fights in the game.
As tensions mounted early in the first period, defencemen Brent Severyn (Avalanche) and Jamie Pushor (Red Wings) fought at 4:45 of the first period, followed by a fight between forwards Kirk Maltby (Red Wings) and Rene Corbet (Avalanche) at 10:14.
The major melee ensued at the 18:22 mark, leading to the third fight.
Shortly after a collision between Red Wings center Igor Larionov and Avalanche forward Peter Forsberg, Red Wings enforcer Darren McCarty seized the chance to avenge his Grind Line teammate by escaping a linesman's grasp and hitting Lemieux with a right hook from the blindside.
McCarty laid many blows on Lemieux, who fell to the ice and covered his head; McCarty managed to land a few more punches, drag Lemieux to the boards and knee him in the head before the two were separated by officials.
Seeing what McCarty was doing to Lemieux, Avalanche goaltender Patrick Roy skated out of his net to defend his teammate, but he was intercepted by Red Wing forward Brendan Shanahan, who was skating at full speed with an open ice body check, sending him sprawling momentarily into Avalanche defenseman Adam Foote.
While Shanahan and Foote tangled, Red Wings goalie Mike Vernon went out to center ice to try and grab Foote off of Shanahan.
Roy saw this going on and got Vernon's attention by pulling him off his teammate, which ended up escalating to a fight when Vernon and Roy dropped their masks, gloves, and blockers. The scrum between Larionov and Forsberg ended with the oft-injured Forsberg aggravating an injury.
As a result of the third brawl of the first period, Forsberg and Larionov each received matching minor penalties for roughing; Roy and Vernon were each assessed minor penalties for roughing Shanahan and Foote, respectively, and major penalties for fighting each other, and McCarty received a double-minor for roughing Lemieux, giving Colorado a power play.
Forsberg aggravated an injury in scrum with Larionov and would not return, and the McCarty/Lemieux incident left patches of blood on the ice that were visible before the ice was resurfaced by the Zamboni; blood also ended up on the boards near the Red Wings bench.
There was even more blood during this brawl when blood started to gush out from Roy's forehead from the cut.
Fifteen seconds after the Roy/Vernon fight, Avalanche winger Adam Deadmarsh and Red Wings defenceman Vladimir Konstantinov would drop the gloves in another fight for the final fight in the first period.
There would be five more fights (and four stoppages) in the second period: a fight between Shanahan and Foote four seconds into the second period, simultaneous fights between Avalanche winger Mike Keane and Red Wings winger Tomas Holmstrom which occurred for the most part on the ice and between Severyn and Red Wing defenceman Aaron Ward 3:34 in (Severyn and Ward were ejected for a secondary fight), McCarty and Deadmarsh at 7:24 (McCarty also received a roughing), and between Pushor and Avalanche defenceman Uwe Krupp at 11:26.
When the third period ended, the score was tied 5–5.
Incidentally, it was McCarty who scored the winner against Roy in overtime, assisted by Shanahan and Larionov.
Mike Vernon (who won his 300th career game) believed the brawl-filled game "brought the Red Wings together" in time for the playoffs.
Red Wings broadcaster Ken Kal surmised that the game was a turning point as far as the team's success went.
Colorado head coach Marc Crawford wondered why McCarty did not receive a game misconduct for his largely one-sided instigation and subsequent fight with Lemieux (McCarty received a double-minor for roughing for that incident, and also received a fighting major later in the game).
Subsequently, Avalanche right winger Mike Keane criticized Draper for having McCarty fight on his behalf.
A similar free-for-all between the teams took place on May 22, 1997 during Game 4 of the Western Conference Finals at Joe Louis Arena when during a penalty-filled game, Crawford was seen screaming obscenities at Red Wings head coach Scotty Bowman across the glass separating the two benches.
Bowman then told Crawford, "I knew your father before you did, and I don't think he'd be very proud of how you're acting." The Wings won that game 6–0. Crawford was fined $10,000 for the tirade.
The next season during a game on November 11, 1997 between the two teams, McCarty and Lemieux began to throw punches seconds after the opening faceoff, much to the delight of the Joe Louis Arena crowd.
On April 1, 1998, Joe Louis Arena was the site of another Avs-Wings brawl.
This time Patrick Roy challenged and then squared off with Chris Osgood at center ice. The referees called more severe penalties this time, as Roy and Osgood both received minor, major, misconduct, and game misconduct penalties. The two teams combined for 46 penalties totaling 228 minutes.
The Red Wings won the game 2–0, and would go on to win the second of their consecutive Stanley Cups.
The game and brawl is considered a defining moment in modern hockey history. However, as players began to leave each team through free agency, trades, or retirements, the rivalry began to die down.
A game between the Red Wings and Avalanche on March 23, 2002 broke into a brawl (much smaller than the previous two) when Kirk Maltby came into Patrick Roy's net and Roy took exception. The brawl continued when Red Wings goalie Dominik Hasek skated down the length of the ice to confront Roy but tripped on a discarded stick, causing him to crash into and knock over Roy.
Infuriated, Roy threw off his gloves and mask to fight as Hasek did the same, but the two were restrained by the officials, thus preventing Roy from fighting a third Red Wing goalie since 1997.