March 26, 1997. On that day, one of the more memorable Red Wings games played out. Following a tough playoff series with Colorado and a gruesome injury to Kris Draper the year before, the pot finally boiled over on this night. The famous fight late in the first period is something I'm sure you've all seen a million times. But there was more than just a fight that night. There was one hell of an intense game. It was an overtime thriller between two of the league's top teams, both willing to put their bodies on the line to win the game and prove a point to their opponent.
And on this anniversary of the game, I want to point out that NHLVideo has the entire game uploaded to youtube (Well, aside from one Colorado goal in the 1st that gets cut off, but I'm sure you can make do with the one omission). Now you can relive the whole night, the fights, the game winning goal, the raucous crowd, and the broadcast quality of the long gone PASS sports.
Some highlights/oddities/whatevers from the video:
- There's several other fights that take place in this game in addition to the main brawl. There was a lot of bad blood between the entire teams.
- Sergei Fedorov is playing on defense.
- Mike Knuble plays his first career NHL game on this night. What a way to start.
- Tomas Holmstrom is still wearing number 15 at this time.
- About 11 minutes into the video, Forsberg gets tripped up and hurt. And about 16 minutes in, he and Larionov entangle a couple times, setting up some anger for the next shift the two would take.
- The rules are obviously very different at the time, as obstruction goes uncalled often, and a two-line pass can lead to a momentarily confusing stoppage.
- 1 hour and 23 minutes into the video, check those standings. Toronto in the Western Conference!
- And of course there's a bunch of players in this game that no longer play. You've got two great players with 19 on in Yzerman and Sakic. Brendan Shanahan is handing out punches instead of suspensions. Vladimir Konstantinov is still running around being awesome.
One of the most important things to see here is just what it meant to the team at the time. After finishing 1st in the Western Conference the previous three seasons, the Red Wings were sitting in third with the division lead pretty much out of reach. They weren't reaching the same regular season success of past seasons, and after disappointing playoff exists the previous years, there were a lot of questions. But it finally came on March 26th of that 1996-97 season that the Red Wings looked like that team they wanted to be, had that drive to get them playing how they wanted to play, and had that inspiration to get them to the Stanley Cup.
And now, on March 26 of this 2011-12 season (this is where I tie it all together!), just remember that it's never too late for a team to prove themselves. The Wings may be struggling and short of where we'd want them to be now, but they can still pull together and unleash that dominance on the rest of the league. It can happen, just believe.