The Most Brutal Ice Hockey Brawls Ever
They’re part of the reason why ice hockey is so thrilling to watch, so when a fight breaks out, the crowd goes wild. Some of the most infamous brawls come from the most bitter of rivalries.
Depending on your feelings towards fighting in hockey, we’ve put together the best - or worst - hockey brawls. They’re certainly not for the faint-hearted, so be warned before you press play.
1. Boston Bruins vs New York Rangers - 1979
When the action spilled over the glass!
It may have been 39 years ago now, but it still ranks as one of the most infamous ice hockey brawls ever.
After some cheap plays, a riled Rangers fan leant over the glass and struck Bruins player, Stan Jonathan, with his match programme and drew blood.
It escalated quickly from there, with the protective Bruins players leaping to his defence, over the glass and into the stands. Mike Milbury, the Bruins defenseman at the time, proceeded to force a fan’s shoe off and beat him with it.
With 18 Bruins players fighting in the stands with all the fans, this was certainly one memorable match. Not without its consequences though – lawsuits, suspensions and fines followed. Also, the dawn of higher glass dividers at the stadiums.
2. Nottingham Panthers vs Sheffield Steelers - 2001
The total bench clearance!
17 years ago, one of the most infamous, violent, UK ice hockey brawls broke out between two bitter rivals.
After numerous underhand shots from each team, there was a final cheap cross-check that saw it all blow up. A line brawl erupted, followed by a mass bench clearing.
The officials sent both teams to their dressing rooms for a 45-minute cooling off period before play could re-commence. Both head coaches and 8 of the players were treated to an early shower.
3. Chicago Blackhawks vs Phoenix Coyotes - 2012
The very long suspension!
This one made the history books because of the punishment, not just the crime.
In 2012, the Coyote’s Raffi Torres, launched himself at Blackhawks’ Marian Hossa, and left him squirming on the ice in pain. After a few minutes, he was carried off on a stretcher and taken for treatment in hospital.
Torres found himself with a 25-game ban, one of the longest in history at the time. For each game he missed, he had to forfeit over $20,000 in salary.
It seems not even this taught him a lesson, and 3 years later he was given a 41-game suspension for an illegal head check on Anaheim’s Silfverberg.
4. Philadelphia Flyers vs Montreal Canadiens - 1987
The pre-game fight!
This one happened even before the puck dropped.
Post warm-up, just as the players were heading back to their locker rooms, the Canadien forward, Lemieux, riled the Flyers by shooting into their empty net. Following this, the gloves came off (literally) and a chaotic fight erupted between both teams. As this was during warm-ups, there was no referee around and the brawl lasted over ten minutes.
This was such a monumental fight that it actually changed NHL legislation – it became tougher and they introduced significant fines in an attempt to stop bench clearing brawls.
5. Chicago Blackhawks vs. St. Louis Blues - 2014
Already a very physical season of hockey for these two teams, it was no surprise when this game escalated.
Seabrook of the Blackhawks, hit Blues Captain David Backes, so hard, it knocked him out on the ice and resulted in a concussion. His Blues teammates jumped to his defence.
As a result of the previous blow, when Backes tried to get back up and join in with the ensuing fight, he could barely keep upright - clearly extremely dazed and confused.
While he attempted to get up, he was subjected to further abuse from a Blackhawks player taunting, "Wakey wakey, Backes, wakey wakey!"
Seabrook’s hit cost him a ‘game misconduct’ penalty, a 3-game suspension and it ended the game for Backes.
6. Binghamton Senators vs Philadelphia Phantoms - 2003
The flying goalie!
With line-ups featuring players who are not averse to the pugilistic side Hockey, such as, Vandermeer, Brookbank, McGratton, Stock and Emery, these matchups were always likely to erupt.
Over the course of this December 28th encounter, the teams combined for 317 PIMs.
With an early tilt between Brookbank and Vandermeer in the first period, the game got off to a feisty start. With less than four minutes remaining in the game, and the score 4-1 in favour of Binghampton, tempers flared as the TV broadcast went commercial.
As the broadcast re-joined the game, it looked like a scene from the Royal Rumble! What happened next may as well have been from the top turnbuckle, as Neil Little came flying in.
7. Canada vs Russia – 1987
The punch up in Piestany!
Over 30 years ago, one of the most infamous moments in international hockey history occurred when Canada and the USSR brawled at the 1987 World Juniors in Piestany, Czechoslovakia.
As the brawl went from bad to worse, arena officials panicked and turned off the lights in an attempt to control the chaos.
With Canada dominating the game at 4-2, already assured of a bronze medal and looking like a sure bet for Gold, the game descended into chaos. A series of fights broke out at a stoppage in play. Two Soviet players hopped the bench and the benches cleared.
Ordinarily, players will square off and find a non-fighter to pair off with, but on this occasion both teams were equally guilty of many nefarious acts.
As a result of the brawl, the game was abandoned and declared as ‘no contest’. The IIHF held an emergency meeting and Canada and Russia were disqualified from the tournament.
8. Detroit Red Wings vs Colorado Avalanche – 1996
No love lost!
These two powerhouse NHL Western conference teams of the 90s were rivals on the ice because of success and bad blood.
In the 1996 NHL playoffs, the two teams squared off in an intensely fought series. One pivotal moment was Claude Lemieux’s hit on Kris Draper. The hit resulted in some serious facial injuries to Draper.
While Draper spent the summer eating meals through a straw, Lemieux and his Avalanche teammates celebrated with the Cup. Detroit vowed to get revenge and they would get it next year both against Lemieux and the rest of the Avalanche.
9. Detroit Red Wings vs Colorado Avalanche - 1997
The following season, after three games without incident, the playoffs were fast approaching and the fuse was lit. After a few initial scraps, the major talking point occurred at 18:22 of the first period.
Following a tussle between Red Wing centre, Igor Larionov, and Avalanche forward, Peter Forsberg, (two players you wouldn’t normally think of sparking a donnybrook), Wings enforcer Darren McCarty seized his opportunity to avenge his Grind Line teammate. He escaped the grasp of a linesman, then hit Lemieux with a blindside right hook. McCarty landed a few more blows as Lemieux turtled for self-preservation.
Avalanche goaltender, Patrick Roy, skated out of his net to defend his teammate, but was intercepted by Red Wing forward Brendan Shanahan, who hit Roy with a vicious clothesline that sent him sprawling to the ice.
While they tangled, Wings goalie Mike Vernon went out to centre ice to try and grab Foote off Shanahan. Roy spotted this and got Vernon's attention by pulling him off his teammate. This escalated into a fight when Vernon and Roy dropped their masks, gloves, and blockers.
Is fighting a thing of the past?
Fighting in hockey has never been part of the rules, but always occurred due to the physical nature of the game. Over the years, rule changes have been made to mitigate the number of fights which has seen numbers decrease across most leagues. Many will rejoice at this, whilst some fans lament the loss of these instances in their game.