While I mostly post on behalf of PensBurgh, I feel the anniversary of this date should be brought up here more than there. For me, this was a day I'd remember as the day I probably got hooked into hockey. Rivalries don't seem nearly as tense after this constant battle throughout what felt like it lasted the better part of the 90's, all be it at the end of the decade.
Before you get to March 26, 1997, you have to page back to the year earlier.
It's the 1996 Western Conference Finals, and just about every game was fast paced and chippy. On comes Game 6, and the start of the rivalry to water down the ones before it.
Claude Lemieux simply turns and levels Kris Draper's face into the boards, right in front of the Red Wings bench. Provoked or not, it looked completely reckless and cheap. The results of the hit alone speak of the sheer impact of it: A trip to the hospital for a broken jaw that required his jaw be wired shut, a broken orbital bone, a shattered cheek, and your run-of-the-mill stitch job. Not a moment too soon, and here comes round one, Darren McCarty vs. Claude Lemieux. This was as classical a hockey fight as there could be, it was a two man brawl.
In the end of it all, Colorado would win the series, and eventually the Stanley Cup in a sweep. Upon doing the traditional handshake after each series, you were left with the the classic quote given by Dino Ciccarelli, "I can't believe I shook that guy's frigging hand."
While the year following the incident had three matches that went by without any real issue, the fourth contest proved to be the atom bomb to the previous powder keg. Welcome to March 26, 1997.
Boom goes the dynamite, down goes Frazier, and just no other rivalry tops what happened between these two teams, in my book. These were the top teams of the time, and they hated each other's guts. Patrick Roy would amass almost 3 fights with the opposing goaltender in this rivalry. Beyond the fighting incidents, the teams tallied for five Stanley Cups 1995 and 2002. When you so much as knew a game between the two was coming up, it was something to countdown to, and it was as electric as a playoff game could be even for a regular season match up. I'm not saying we're missing something like this today, but of any rivalry that gets cooked up, revisited, or renewed, it has to be measured up to this.
While I may not have had a favorite team then, just being a kid who loved watching this sport, I think this was truly what got instantly hooked into the world of hockey. The talent was there, the tension was there, and you were one rush from a goal or a brawl.