The second half of the 2016 NHL Stadium Series gets under way tonight at Coors Field in Denver as alumni from the Colorado Avalanche and Detroit Red Wings kick off one of the most anticipated weekends of the NHL season. The storied rivalry between the Avs and Red Wings continues on Saturday night as both teams fight to stay in NHL post-season contention. With about 20 games left in the regular season for each team, the urgency to qualify for the Stanley Cup Playoffs intensifies for the teams hoping to land a Wild Card spot, which is the case for both the Avs and Wings as they compete at Coors Field this weekend.
For the uninitiated, the Red Wings-Avalanche rivalry dates back to the mid-90s when Colorado and Detroit were two of the most dominate teams in the NHL. As reported by NHL.com, five of the seven Stanley Cup trophies awarded between 1996 and 2002 were received by one or the other half of this rivalry. The bloodbath began during the Western Conference Finals in 1996, when Slava Kozlov of the Red Wings slammed the Avs’ Adam Foote into the glass, leaving a deep cut that required 20 stitches. The hit was unseen by the referees, so Colorado’s Claude Lemieux retaliated by punching Kozlov in the mouth. While both head coaches had strong words for each other the following day, the action really heated up during Game 6 of the same series.
Lemieux — who had been assessed a one-game suspension for punching Kozlov — delivered a check to Detroit’s Kris Draper that resulted in a broken cheekbone, several broken teeth and a fractured nose and jaw. While Colorado went on to win the game and advance to the Stanley Cup Finals, Lemieux was suspended for the first two games of the series. As the feud continued over the years, the violence got worse. Some of the bloodiest contests came during the regular season in 1997 and 1998. While things cooled down, incidents continued to arise as late as 2002 and 2008.
Detroit’s Draper and Colorado’s Roy and Lemieux were all a part of the rivalry’s origin, and all three will take part in tonight’s alumni exhibition, according to the Detroit Free Press. Along with Draper for the Red Wings will be Steve Yzerman, Nicklas Lidstrom, Brendan Shanahan, Igor Larionov, Tomas Holmstrom, Kirk Maltby, and Darren McCarty. Roy and Lemieux of the Avalanche team will be joined by Joe Sakic and Peter Forsberg, among others.
— Michelle Tuckner (@MichelleTuckner) February 26, 2016
On Saturday night, both the Wings and the Avs will be looking to earn two points as both organizations continue to fight for a spot in the post-season. Detroit is currently ranked seventh in the Eastern Conference. They’ll come to Denver after their 2-1 victory over the Columbus Blue Jackets on Tuesday. Colorado, too, won their last game when they beat the San Jose Sharks in a shootout on Wednesday.
This is the second 2016 NHL Stadium Series weekend event of this season. Last weekend, the Minnesota Wild hosted the Chicago Blackhawks. Minnesota came out victorious in both the alumni game (6-4) on Friday and the regular season game on Saturday (6-1).
Where to watch
NBC will air Saturday night’s game between the Colorado Avalanche and Detroit Red Wings at 8/7c.
[Image credit Doug Pensinger/Getty Images]