Ron Hextall and Felix Potvin exchanged haymakers in a 1996 fight. (Photo by Bruce Bennett Studios/Getty Images)
By Liz Bevan
Fights are common in pro hockey and the NHL is no exception. When players drop the gloves, fans rise to their feet, eyes glued to the combatants as they cheer on their favorites. Much less common: seeing goaltenders get hot enough to involve themselves.
The rare time it does happen, watching two goalies scuffle and awkwardly throw punches beneath an abundance of protective padding is quite the spectacle. Here are our favorites.
On Feb. 22, 2007, Buffalo’s Patrick Kaleta hopped the boards and went after Ottawa’s Dany Heatley. The Sens and Sabres began talking smack and shoving. Adam Mair singled out Jason Spezza and things got out of control. Chris Phillips retaliated against Mair before goaltenders Emery and Biron met at center ice. The only reason this fight makes the cut: the maniacal look on Emery’s face as he removed his trapper and mask. Emery took Biron down and didn’t stop smiling the whole time.
It was Jan. 24, 1987, and at the end of regulation the scoreboard read 4-3 for the Devils. The Flyers weren’t happy about it. Mix in the fact Philly’s Kjell Samuelsson ended up on the receiving end of Steve Richmond’s fist and you had a recipe for a line brawl. The players were indistinguishable amid the chaos, except for the goalies, Hextall and Chevrier, zeroing in on each other. The ice, littered with sticks and gloves, resembled an abandoned battlefield.
Near the end of the second period May 3, 1997, there was a scuffle in front of Snow’s net and he facewashed Sabres enforcer Rob Ray. Shields left the Buffalo net and headed straight for Snow. As famed Sabres play-by-play man Rick Jeanneret put it, “Shields says, ‘Oh no you don’t, I want to get a little piece of this action.’ ”
On Jan. 17, 2002, Hal Gill scored to make it 5-1 Bruins. Simultaneously, Ottawa’s Chris Neil took a run at Boston’s Bill Guerin, sparking a melee before Lalime finally stepped in. Dafoe skated the length of the ice and turned Lalime into putty. After a lengthy knuckle-chucker, Mike Fisher pushed Boston’s Nick Boynton into Lalime, knocking him down and ending the scrap.
The rivalry between Cloutier and Passmore began in the minors. But on March 3, 2000, they took their show to “The Show.” Cloutier invited Passmore to throw down and even though Cloutier (6-foot-1) significantly outsized Passmore (5-foot-9), the fight ended up a draw. After the refs had positioned themselves between the two goalies, however, Cloutier caught Passmore with an extra shot.
This fight qualifies as a bench-clearer. On Feb. 22, 1980, Philly’s Frank Bathe jumped onto the ice to protect teammate Bob Dailey. Bathe’s move had a domino effect, with every player on each side hopping over the boards with the intention of drawing blood. Even the penalty boxes emptied to amp up the carnage. Hanlon, the Canucks’ backup goalie, and Myre, the Flyers’ starting netminder, traded punches. Hanlon destroyed Myre with uppercuts. Vancouver coach Pat Quinn was suspended three games and fined $1,000 for signalling his players to leave the penalty box.
Cloutier’s fight with Tommy Salo came April 4, 1998. P.J. Stock tangled with Mariusz Czerkawski, ripped his helmet and jersey off and in came Salo. When Salo joined, Cloutier couldn’t resist barrelling into the brawl to defend Stock. Cloutier got Salo’s jersey over his head and forced him to his knees, punching Salo’s head before he ragdolled and Cloutier backed off. Hungry for more action, Cloutier taunted the Isles bench afterward.
The vicious rivalry between Colorado and Detroit began in the 1996 Western Conference final and on April 1, 1998, it came to a head – again. Avs tough guy Warren Rychel dropped his gloves and started after Bob Rouse. In a heartbeat, the ice was covered with blurs of maroon, navy, red and white. It didn’t take long for Roy to join the fray. Osgood and Roy skated to center ice. After a bit of jawing, Roy approached his opponent, turned his hands into fists, and started grappling. Osgood got the first punch in. They went shot-for-shot before Roy landed several in a row and Osgood was on the ground.
Peter Forsberg of Colorado started things off March 26, 1997, when he took a swing at Detroit’s Igor Larionov, but this massive brawl was all about retribution for Claude Lemieux’s hit from behind on Kris Draper in ’96. Darren McCarty went ballistic on Lemieux. The goalies got involved, too. Roy entered the scuffle and eventually found Vernon and Brendan Shanahan teaming up on Adam Foote. Roy took Vernon’s head, cupped it in his glove and started wailing on Vernon’s face. The crowd went bananas at Joe Louis Arena.
Toronto visited Philly Nov. 10, 1996, and Potvin made the mistake of slashing Daniel Lacroix of Philadelphia. Hextall skated the length of the ice and started throwing uppercuts. Potvin countered with some solid shots of his own. Who came out on top? If you listen to Philadelphia announcers, Hextall won the fight. Ask the Toronto guys and you hear a different story. Regardless, Potvin vs. Hextall comes out as the winner of THN’s top goalie tilts of all-time.
The THN.com Top 10 appears Wednesdays only on TheHockeyNews.com.