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Thirty-five years after Good Friday Massacre, Canadiens and Nordiques play again

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Richard Sévigny looks back, as the two Alumni teams rekindle the classic provincial rivalry.

The Good Friday brawl of 1984

Nearly 35 years ago (on April 20, 1984 to be precise), the Montreal Canadiens and Quebec Nordiques faced off in a playoff game that descended into a bench-clearing brawl at the end of the second period, as bad blood between the two provincial rivals boiled over. Both teams were eventually separated and sent to their respective locker rooms. When it came time to go back out for the third period, the referees had not yet sorted out the penalties, so both teams came out and the brawl commenced again.

It is one of the most famous incidents between the two franchises, and resulted in 198 minutes of penalties and 10 game misconducts. Jean Hamel, a veteran NHL defenceman playing his first season with Montreal, sustained a serious eye injury in the brawl, which essentially brought an end to his 13-year career.

The game became known at the Good Friday Massacre and went down in NHL lore as one of the greatest of all time, for all the wrong reasons. For all intents and purposes, the league changed at that point, realizing that there must be safeguards against the game reaching this level of violence ever again.

Three veterans of that brawl are taking part in a friendly series of Alumni games this weekend in Havre-Saint-Pierre. The Nordiques team is coached by Michel Goulet, who had a goal and three penalties that game, while Canadiens players who remember that fateful game will be Guy Carbonneau (one goal and one penalty) and goaltender Richard Sévigny (major penalty and a game misconduct).

Sévigny wasn’t even the starting goaltender in that game, but rather the backup who found his way onto the ice at the end of the second period when the fireworks really kicked off.

“At the end of the second period, there was a gathering at one end of the ice, with Chris Nilan and Randy Moller leading the fray,” recalled Sévigny before the current series in a conversation with Eyes On The Prize. “Eventually everyone found their way there.”

“We waited for half an hour at intermission to see who was getting ejected, but we never heard any decisions from the referees, so we all headed back out when the horn sounded. At that point there were scores to be settled, so it all kicked off again.”

“The funny thing is that during that summer I signed with the Nordiques. In Montreal I was being called a traitor. But it was a question of contract, and because there was an error in mine, I became one of the few players of the 80s to become an unrestricted free agent. That’s why the Nordiques gave me a four-year contract offer.

“Frankly, they didn’t even need me. They already had three goalies in their rotation: Daniel Bouchard, Mario Gosselin, and Clint Malarchuk. It was simply to hurt Montreal. It gave me a four-year deal and a chance to play in Quebec. I have no regrets. But if there is ever a Canadiens Alumni game against the Nordiques Alumni, my crest will always be that of the Canadiens.

“We’ve actually had a few games. All of them, especially the last two, were a little rough, even if they were friendlies. There was a rivalry that still existed. Players were hit, others were ejected. The rivalry of the 1980s was coming back up to the surface.”

After a 10-8 win for Montreal on Saturday, the teams clash again today. The lineups for the two Alumni teams are as follows:

Canadiens: Richard Sévigny, Oleg Petrov, Guy Carbonneau, Mathieu Dandenault, Pierre Dagenais, Marc-Andre Bergeron, Patrice Brisebois, Guillaume Latendresse, Yvon Lambert (coach)

Nordiques: Patrick Couture, Claude Lapointe, Marc Fortier, Pierre Aubry, Luc Dufour, Alain Cote, Pierre Lacroix, Dave Pichette, Michel Goulet (coach)