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On This Date in Sports April 20, 1984: Bad Blood on Good Friday

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The Quebec Nordiques faced a must-win Game 6, trailing the Montreal Canadiens 3-2 in the Adams Division Finals. The game goes from hockey to a battle royal as an ugly bench-clearing brawl ends the second period. After intermission, the fight resumes during the third-period warmup leading to 11 ejections and 252 penalty minutes. The Canadiens would score five goals in the third period to win the game 5-3 and clinch the series.

There is no team in the NHL with a richer history than the Montreal Canadiens. First playing in the National Hockey Association, the Canadiens have won the Stanley Cup 24 times, nearly double the Toronto Maple Leafs, the team with the second most championships. In the late ’70s, the Canadiens were especially dominant, winning the cup four straight seasons as the rival World Hockey Association crumbled away. The Quebec Nordiques would be one of four WHA teams to join the NHL for the 1979/80 season.

Upon entering the NHL, the Nordiques became bitter rivals to the Canadiens as they hoped to escape the shadow of the Habs and establish themselves as a viable NHL franchise. In the first round of the 1982 Playoffs, the Nordiques drew first blood on their rivals from Montreal, winning a best-of-five series on an overtime goal by Dale Hunter 22 seconds into sudden death of Game 5 at the Montreal Forum.

Metting again in the playoffs two years later, the Nordiques looked to return to the Wales Conference Final for the second time in three years. Meanwhile, the Montreal Canadiens looked to get the bitter taste of Dale Hunter’s goal out of their mouths. The Quebec Nordiques coached by Michel Bergeron finished third in the Adams Division with a record of 42-28-10, while the Canadiens struggled most of the season and finished fourth with a record of 35-40-5 as Jacques Lemaire took over behind the bench late in the season when Bob Berry was fired. In the opening round, the Canadiens upset the first-place Boston Bruins with a three-game sweep, while Quebec swept the Buffalo Sabres. After splitting the first four games, the Canadiens rocked the Nordiques with a 4-0 win at Le Colisee in Game 5 to take a 3-2 series lead.

With the Canadiens looking to close out the series at home, Quebec took a 1-0 lead in the first period on a goal by Peter Stastny. As the Nordiques controlled the early part of the game, things began getting heated, as there were several small fights in a chippy first period. The game began to turn from chippy to ugly during a scoreless second period. As the second period came to an end, things got rough and rowdy as the benches cleared with fights all over the ice. Among the ugliest incidents, Montreal’s Jean Hamel was knocked unconscious while sustaining a serious ice injury when Louis Sleigher punched him as officials tried to break up the fight. Meanwhile, Peter Stastny suffered a broken nose from a punch delivered by Mario Tremblay. Referee Bruce Hood sent the teams to the locker room, starting intermission, without sorting out the penalties. When the players came out for the third-period warm-up, it was unclear what penalties would be handed out. As the players skated back on the ice, the ejected players were announced and coming back with their teams. This helped reignite the bad feelings as the two teams began brawling again. The Canadiens, in particular, targeted Sleigher for injuring Hamel. Things got so ugly that Dale Hunter began brawling with his brother Mark Hunter, who was on the Canadiens. When order was finally restored, 11 players were ejected; Jean Hamel, Mike McPhee, Chris Nilan, Richard Sevigny, and Mario Tremblay of the Canadiens. While the Nordiques lost Dale Hunter, Clint Malarchuk, Randy Moller, Louis Sleigher, Peter Stastny, and Wally Weir. Quebec added to their lead once play resumed as Michel Goulet scored on the ensuing power play. However, the Habs turned things around, scoring five straight goals, with Steve Shutt scoring twice, followed by goals from Rick Green, John Chabot, and Guy Charboneau. The Nordiques would get a goal by Wilf Paiement to make the final score 5-3 as Montreal advanced to the Wales Conference Finals.

The Canadiens would be beaten in six games by the New York Islanders, as the fallout of what was dubbed the “Good Friday Massacre” lasted all summer. Jean Hamel was never able to play again due to the lingering effects of his eye injury, while referee Bruce Hood was forced to retire by the NHL.