March 26, 1997.
Anyone who is a Detroit Red Wings‘ fan knows exactly what is significant about that date as it is the date of infamous Joe Louis Arena brawl with the Colorado Avalanche.
During the Brawl, Red Wings' enforcer Darren McCarty absolutely pummeled bad guy Claude Lemieux for what he had done to McCarty's teammate, Kris Draper.
Ten years after the brawl, McCarty and Lemieux met face to face off the ice for the first time and McCarty was still fuming, as he said on 97.1 The Ticket's podcast The Time That.
“I was cold. I was still, fu*k you. I was still in defensive mode,” McCarty said on 97.1 The Ticket's podcast The Time That. “And then he was the one that lowered it down and turned it into a man-to-man conversation. Now I’d be fine with him. If I played against him and he did that hit again, though, I’d be the first one to fu*king go after him.”
Though it took a long time, McCarty eventually got over his hatred for Lemieux and found it within himself to respect his former enemy.
“The one thing I’ll say about Claude, as a man, I have respect for him. This was after meeting him and doing the autographs and giving money to charity. You find that some guys, you hate him as a player because you don’t like what they stand for as a player, but as a man, yeah, I’d go golfing with him,” McCarty said.
As for the fight, McCarty said it was something he simply had to do.
“Lemieux hits Draper from behind in Game 6, we lose. We don’t know how bad Drapes is. He crushed his orbital bone, broke his jaw, has a hole in his face. That’s my best friend, my centermen. You go through the summer and you’re golfing and then you look down (to hit a shot) and you just see Lemieux's face and you’re like, man, this isn’t ever going to go away,” McCarty said. “That's true.
“It wasn't until the beginning of March when I was driving myself crazy that I just prayed. I said, ‘God, whatever happens, can I be the messenger please? Just let me be the messenger, whatever your plan is.' This ain't a religious thing, this ain't anything other than I had to let it go.”
McCarty also revealed that the blow that sent Lemieux into the turtle position on the ice was landed with is off hand.
“I'm a lefty but I hit him with the right. I tell everyone, the whole Red Wing nation — man, woman, child, granny — whoever wanted a piece of this guy, I was the messenger. My right is hard but it's got no accuracy, and this one I split him right down the pipe, on the button. He said he didn’t turtle. He said he was knocked out, seeing starts. Said it’s the hardest he’s ever been hit,” McCarty said.
So, now that they see eye to eye, has McCarty and Lemieux discussed the hit?
“No, we don’t need to talk about it,” said McCarty. “You know what you did, you know I felt. You know what I did. He’s come out and said that if he had to do something over, he would have handled it differently. There still would have been comeuppance, but it wouldn’t have been so personal. It would have been more business.”