Remembering the “St. Patrick’s Day Massacre”

 Alex St. Peters

On one St. Patrick’s Day night in 1991 the St. Louis Blues and Chicago Blackhawks came together for a boxing match, but a hockey game broke out. The night would be known as the “St. Patrick’s Day Massacre” by hockey fans and players all over the league. In all, there were 278 penalty minutes, which included 24 minor, 12 major and 17 misconduct penalties. Six players from each side would be ejected from the game as well.

At the time the Blues and the Blackhawks both were competing for the President’s Trophy in a very competitive Norris Division game. Since both teams were in the same division they met plenty of times during the regular season. A heated rivalry had grown between the two teams and is rivaled as one of the greatest rivalries in all of sports. The Blues-Blackhawks rivalry was up there with the Cardinals-Cubs rivalry in terms of competitiveness. It was expected to be a game with a playoff atmosphere, considering it was so close the end of the season, but nobody expected it to end up like it did.

It all started five minutes into the game when St. Louis Blues defenseman Glen Featherstone took exception to Chicago Blackhawks forward Jeremy Roenick’s hit on Harold Snepsts. Featherstone went after Roenick in an attempt to fight him but was cut off by Roenick’s teammate Keith Brown. As the referees handled the fight between Featherstone and Brown, other fights would break out among the other players on the ice. Blues players Kelly Chase and Darin Kimble would both go after Roenick during the brawl. In an interview, Jeremy Roenick would say, “Chaser and Kimble both came at me and beat the tar out of me at the same time.” According to Blues player Brett Hull, Kelly Chase had enough of Jeremy Roenick and that he decided that he was going to “take care of business.”

At some time during the line brawl, a Blues player would leave the bench to join the brawl, making it six Blues vs five Blackhawks. After the referees sorted everything out Blues players Darin Kimble, Kelly Chase, Harold Snepsts, and Rod Brind’Amour would receive game misconducts and be kicked out of the game, whereas only two Blackhawks players Trent Yawney and Michel Goulet would receive game misconducts and be kicked out. A slew of other minor and major penalties would also be handed out to both teams. Like I said before this game wasn’t a playoff game, but it felt like one.

During the TV broadcast St. Louis Blues sportscaster Ken Wilson said, “This crowd can be very loud and I don’t think John (Kelly) that we’ve ever seen a more lively crowd even in playoff times here at Chicago stadium” Wilson continued to say, “It’s not a playoff game, but believe me it is one hundred percent like a Stanley Cup contest.”

If anybody thought the rest of this game would be played cleanly they would have been one hundred percent wrong. Fourteen more penalties would be handed out between both teams in the remainder of the first period alone.

Early in the second period of the game Blackhawks player Steve Larmer would high stick Blues player Gino Cavallini and receive a five-minute major penalty and a game misconduct. After this, the Blackhawks would purposely start another line brawl, but this time they would have nine Blackhawks players on the ice compared to the Blues seven players. The line brawl would start with Blues heavyweight Scott Stevens against Blackhawks heavyweight Dave Manson. Blackhawks announcer Pat Foley described the two players as “some of the toughest customers in the league” As in the first line brawl the other players on the ice would also pair up. However, the main fight in this line brawl would be Scott Stevens and Dave Manson. The two would end up at center ice away from the other fights by the Blues net. Sportscaster Ken Wilson would describe the fight, “Manson is really back peddling from Stevens, they wanted each other last night. They’re going to let them go the three most feared words in hockey, main event center ice.”  Stevens would end up winning the tilt, but Manson left his mark on him by cutting Stevens’ eye in the fight.

At one point Blues coach Brian Sutter and Blackhawks coach Mike Keenan would get nose to nose across the glass between the benches. In an interview Blues player, Adam Oates said everybody thought they were going to fight. The interesting thing was brothers Brian Sutter (Head coach) and Rich Sutter (forward) were on the Blues side, whereas their brother Darryl Sutter (Associate coach) was on the Blackhawks side. This family affair only increased the rivalry between the two teams because they didn’t want to lose to each other.

The second line brawl would just as bad as the first one with Blues sportscaster Ken Wilson saying that this game was “as wild as we’ve seen in the NHL in a number of years” and Wilson would also describe Blues player Jeff Brown having Blackhawks player Wayne Presley in a “ World Wrestling Federation hold.”  Sports Illustrated writer Michael Farber described the game as “one of the most vicious brawls in modern NHL history.”

Six more players would receive game misconducts from the line brawl. The Blues would lose Scott Stevens and Glen Featherstone, Where the Blackhawks would lose Mike Peluso, Stu Grimson, and Dave Manson. The rest of the game would be played without any more line brawls, but it still wasn’t a clean game with seven more penalties being handed out between both teams. The Blackhawks would end up winning the game six to four.

This game will always go down as one of the most brutal games in NHL history and a game that fans would not soon forget. If the Blues-Blackhawks rivalry hadn’t already been solidified this game would make sure that this rivalry would last the test of time. Even in today’s NHL the Blues-Blackhawks rivalry is still one of the best in all of sports.

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