When is an alumni game not an alumni game?
Well, figure that even if it was almost two decades ago the old-time Colorado Avalanche and Detroit Red Wings did enjoy one of the most heated, bloody rivalries in all of sports. The fact that it remains a storyline heading into Friday night's alumni game at Coors Field is a testament to the depth of the emotions that ran between the two teams and their fan bases.
Between 1996 and 2002 the teams played five times in the playoffs, with the winner going on to win the Stanley Cup three times -- in 1996, 1997 and 2002.
And then there's the star power. I count 12 Hall of Famers between the two teams that will take to the ice Friday night, and then there are the number of current NHL power brokers among the group, including Avalanche head coach Patrick Roy and his pal and fellow Hall of Famer Joe Sakic, who is head of hockey operations. Steve Yzerman is GM of the Tampa Bay Lightning. Rob Blake is assistant GM of the Los Angeles Kings. Brendan Shanahan is the president of the Toronto Maple Leafs. Mike Ricci is the development coach for the San Jose Sharks. Kris Draper is a special assistant to Detroit GM Ken Holland.
And so on.
Still, any sense that this game won't be anything but a bunch of middle-aged guys putting on a show for the fans is misplaced, although Roy did joke that the game might start friendly but he couldn't be sure what the third period might look like.
Still, as it was put by Claude Lemieux, who once rearranged Draper's face with a punishing check from behind into an open bench door and then was pummeled the next season by Darren McCarty in one of the most famous regular-season games in Red Wings history, whatever fireworks once existed have been extinguished.
"The old days are the old days, and what went on is all behind us," four-time Stanley Cup winner Lemieux said. "We were extremely competitive, we were all trying to win and what happened on the ice, we left it behind. We've all gotten older and we all have kids, and grandkids for some, and now we just want to watch."