Fighting and enforcers have had their place in the game for as long as the sport of hockey has existed. Love it or hate it, hockey's a physical game, and from time to time, that involves two willing opponents squaring off and dropping the gloves.
Fights in regular season games happen for a number of reasons, often a player coming to the aide of a teammate or trying to spark a change in momentum for his team. The playoffs however are a different animal, a time when discipline has to override raw emotion in order to earn hockey's ultimate prize. As the postseason progresses further towards the final, series may be physical, but old time fist fights become few and far between. The players know what's at stake, and no one wants to take himself off the ice for 5 (or possibly more) minutes, precious time wasted from contributing to his team.
With the 2017 playoffs in their final stanza, a historic match up between the defending champions in Pittsburgh and Cinderella story Nashville Predators, we saw the hockey equivalent of Halley's Comet––a fight in the Stanley Cup Final. Half way through the third, PK Subban and Evgeni Malkin squared off (or really just hugged) in a bizarre, albeit mildly entertaining tango, making me think, hey, when was the last time we saw this?
Since as early as the 1930's, occasionally we are graced with the pleasure of a fight in the Stanley Cup Final. They're rare, but often great, so here are a few of the most memorable from throughout NHL history.
1936: Red Wings vs. Maple Leafs
The first notable Stanley Cup Final hockey fight perhaps came in the 1936 final between Detroit and Toronto, the now infamous bench-clearing brawl that was truly the first of its kind with Lord Stanley's Cup on the line.
1978: Pierre Bouchard vs Stan Johnathan
Well, it wouldn't be a hockey fight list without some good ol' time Bruins-Habs, would it? Like a scene out of Goon, the 1978 Final showcased Jonathan leveling Bouchard with a left fist to the face, sending blood spatter flying onto the surrounding ice. It was the epitome of a 70's-style hockey fight, made all the richer by taking place when the stakes were highest.
2009: Evgeni Malkin vs. Henrik Zetterberg
Before the Penguins became the modern-day dynasty of all stars we know them as today, they were a team of talented youngsters taking on a veteran Red Wings squad for then 21-year-old Captain Sidney Crosby's first Stanley Cup. In a sloppy but no less spirited bout, Malkin squared off with Zetterberg (perhaps early preparation for Subban?) in a heated jerseys-off showdown.
2011: Tim Thomas vs. Alex Burrows
You think we could've made it through this list without a goalie fight? Think again. What started as two teams with little rivalry or history quickly turned ugly in the 2011 Final between the Bruins and Canucks. This series had a number of fights (even some biting too) but, the sliver of an intersection between fights in the Final and fights involving goalies? That's one for the ages.
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