Ranking the best goalie fights of all time 

February, 4, 2011

For whatever reason (it has to be the equipment, right?), fights between opposing goaltenders get a lot of attention. The Wednesday night bout between Pittsburgh Penguins goalie Brent Johnson and New York Islanders netminder Rick DiPietro attracted national attention, and "SportsCenter" made it an hourly staple well into Thursday (check out the video here).

Unfortunately, DiPietro ended up with more than just hurt feelings. The oft-injured Islanders goaltender will miss the next four to six weeks with facial fractures and knee swelling. In the future, DiPietro might want to avoid the fisticuffs.

With this latest goalkeeper showdown, many different hockey media outlets started running old goalie-on-goalie bouts. There were some that I remembered pretty well and there were others that I hadn't seen in a while. I had forgotten all about the "Sugar" Ray Emery-Marty Biron fight from a couple of years ago. I'd say the skinny Biron, who did OK in that showdown, was stepping out from his weight class in that one.

In today's edition of Five for Friday, I offer my short list of the top goalie fights.

1. Patrick Roy-Mike Vernon (March 26, 1997)

There might have been goalie fights that featured more sheer action, but this battle remains significant to me because it was the by-product of the raw hate between the Colorado Avalanche and Detroit Red Wings during the mid-to-late 1990s. It was approximately 300 days after Colorado winger Claude Lemieux's controversial hit on Detroit's Kris Draper, who suffered significant facial injuries as a result.

This fight developed after a seemingly innocent wrestling match between Peter Forsberg and Igor Larionov. While that was going on, Detroit's Darren McCarty found Lemieux on the ice and decided to extract a pound of flesh. In the heat of the moment, the two goalies got thrown together in the midst of a bigger fight involving Wings F Brendan Shanahan and Avs D Adam Foote.

Both goalies got in some shots. Vernon, in particular, landed a sweet straight left. Probably exhausted, the Wings goaltender ended the altercation by going for the leg takedown.

E.J. Hradek

Senior Writer, ESPN The Magazine
E.J. Hradek is a senior writer at ESPN The Magazine, joining the staff prior to its launch in 1998. He began covering hockey as a writer/editor for Hockey Illustrated in 1989.