MONTREAL – When it comes to heated battles, nothing divided an arena – or a province – quite like the Canadiens-Nordiques rivalry.
One of the fiercest in hockey history, the battle between Montreal and Quebec hit fever pitch on Good Friday back in 1984. Now, 26 years later, that April evening still remains etched in the memories of fans across the province who were on hand to witness one of the most memorable games ever played.
After playing nine seasons in Montreal, Pierre Mondou, still remembers the clashes between the Habs and Nordiques as the most intense of his playing career.
“I played four series against the Nordiques and the atmosphere in those games was absolutely unbelievable,” recalled Mondou, who chipped in with an assist to help the Canadiens snuff out the Nordiques’ Cup aspirations with a 5-3 series-clinching win in Game 6.
According to Mondou, the infamous “Battle of Quebec” represents the climax of a rivalry that had been boiling over since Quebec was awarded an NHL franchise in 1979.
“It was a rivalry that took place not just on the ice but in every corner of the province,” explained Mondou, who is now working as an amateur scout for the New Jersey Devils. “Be it in Quebec or Montreal, I always felt like the crowd was split in two and that there was no love lost between either side. Even for the visiting players, the hatred between the teams was palpable. It wasn’t just that way for the Quebec players, either – Europeans like Mats Naslund would come over and it was instantly war for them too. They hated the Nordiques as much as any of us.”
The Habs’ backup netminder at the time, Richard Sevigny, can still vividly recall the events leading up to what would become one of the darkest days in hockey history.
“The rivalry back then was like a balloon that inflated a little more each game and then on that night, the balloon finally popped,” described Sevigny. “It’s been over 25 years and we’re still talking about that incident like it was three months ago.”
This epic clash was the source of a few dubious team records set by the Canadiens. Try this one on for size: with the Canadiens piling up 105 penalty minutes in the second period alone and the Nordiques countering with 117 of their own, two benchmarks were established. The combined total of 222 minutes is a record, as is the whopping 252 minutes at game’s end which took officials three pages to fill for the penalty calls alone.
After the first wave of fights at the end of the middle frame which lasted over 10 minutes, the players limped into the intermission. Referee Bruce Hood and linesmen Bob Hodges and John D’Amico then began sifting through the wreckage to dole out penalties. That proved to be such an extensive process that the teams returned to the ice to start the third period before the officials were done sorting things out.
Once game expulsions were finally announced, the next round of fights began as the tossed players with little to lose decided to not go quietly. Another 10 minutes of brawls ensued before the final period would begin, with both team benches sparsely filled due to all the expulsions. Despite trailing 1-0 and 2-0, the Habs roared back for the series-clinching win.
While the ugly encounter remains the most vivid memory of this bitter rivalry, there was so much more to it than that.
“No one will forget that night and nothing will ever change that,” admitted Sevigny. “What everyone should also remember though is that the Montreal-Quebec rivalry provided a lot great hockey and competition at its best.” Vincent Cauchy is a writer for canadiens.com. Translated by Shauna Denis and Manny Almela.See also:The playoff raceHabs notebook - April 1, 2010 The amazing race The AHL is also loving themselves some Subban