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Wings-Avs alumni game? Let's hope so

by Bill Roose / Detroit Red Wings

Rockies pitcher Rex Brothers jumps over a snow bank to get to the dugout as workers remove snow from Coors Field before Opening Day 2013. The Red Wings and Avalanche will play an outdoor game here next February. (Photo by Getty Images)

DENVER – Once a central figure in one of the most-heated sports rivalries of all time, Patrick Roy seemed ready to announce that an alumni game will be part of next season’s Red Wings-Avalanche outdoor contest at Coors Field.

“I don’t want to go too much into details about that,” the Avalanche’s coach said. “But at the same time, if there’s one it would be fun.”

Should the league bring together former players from Detroit and Colorado – for what definitely would be the hottest ticket in town – count Roy as an early recruit.

“Yes I will (play),” said Roy, who was elected to the Hockey Hall of Fame in 2006.

Roy then added a funny mic-drop moment saying he’ll play “for $8.5 million, the same salary as my last year, I’ll give it a shot in that game.”

All joking aside, an alumni game between these two former Western Conference combatants will happen. The exhibition is too attractive to pass up.

Plus, there wouldn’t be a shortest of amazing players to pick from on both benches, from Steve Yzerman, Joe Sakic, Sergei Fedorov, Peter Forsberg, Brendan Shanahan, Rob Blake, Chris Osgood, Claude Lemieux, Darren McCarty, and many, many more.

“I’m trying to lose a little bit of weight to make sure my mask would fit,” said Roy, who had two separate legendary center-ice fights with Wings goalie Mike Vernon and Osgood. “Nobody wants to embarrass themselves in those events. Now I’m thinking about buying some goalie stuff and start practicing secretly and be ready for that game.”

Tonight, the Red Wings and Avalanche are set to play their last regular-season game in Denver until the two clubs will meet in the NHL Stadium Series outdoor game on Feb. 27, 2016.

It’s believed that an alumni game would be played on the night before – Friday, Feb. 26.

“Oh, yeah, I think that would be more exciting, the alumni game,” said Wings defenseman Kyle Quincey, who once played for the Avalanche and still maintains a home in suburban Denver.

Even though they don’t face each other near as much as they used to, the Wings-Avs rivalry will always evoke memories of McCarty dishing out his brand of hockey justice on Lemieux 10 months after the Avs’ villain delivered an ugly, jaw-breaking hit on Kris Draper during Game 6 of the 1996 Western Conference finals.

That hit is credited for setting off years epic battles as the two clubs waged hotly contested wars for Western Conference supremacy. Between 1996 and 2002, the Wings and Avs met four times in the postseason, including conference finals in 1996, 1997 and 2002. From 1995 to 2002, one of the two won the Stanley Cup five times and represented the West in the finals six times.

Quincey was 10 years old when he watched the rivalry’s infancy of the mid-90s.

“Oh, yeah, growing up, that Lemieux hit on Draper that was pretty wow. That’s going to start something instantly,” said Quincey, who played for the Avs from 2009-12. “Playing with a guy like (Adam Foote) and talking about it and obviously playing with Shanny and the guys on the other side it’s kind of neat to hear the stories from both sides. I was very fortunate to be on both sides of it, so it’s cool.

“I’d pay for tickets to see that for sure. I wouldn’t be surprised if something happened, to tell you the trust. If you’re not going back to the Nordiques, there’s really only 20 years. Most of the guys are only a couple of years removed, so it’s definitely fresh in their memories.”

Growing up in Haliburton, Ontario, Avs center Matt Duchene was a Sakic fan, while many of his friends cheered for Detroit. So, playing the Wings in a special headlining outdoor game is very special to Duchene.

“I watched the big battles in the late 90s and the early 2000s. It’s going to be pretty cool. I know if you told a 12-, 13-year-old me that I was going to play in that someday I would be pretty excited.”

But an alumni game between Detroit and Colorado would be something else.

“It would be really competitive if you got Joe, Peter (Forsberg), Patty (Roy) and Footy, and then you got Yzerman and Shanahan and those guys to play in Detroit,” Duchene said. “It would bring back good memories and those guys would have a lot of fun.”

Despite his immense hatred for the Red Wings, Duchene has a framed red-and-white jersey hanging in his Colorado home, a memento from Gordie Howe the night that the 24-year-old scored his first NHL goal – Oct. 17, 2009 in Detroit.

“After the game that night when he gave me a signed jersey,” said Duchene, who used to play summer hockey for Howe’s grandson, Travis Howe. “When you open the door to my place here the first thing you see is it framed on the wall. I don’t love having a Detroit jersey in my place, but it’s pretty cool to have a Gordie Howe, No. 9, Mr. Hockey signed jersey.”

Avs defenseman Zach Redmond grew up a Red Wings fan in Traverse City, Mich. He’s already heard from family and friend who are already planning to attend next year’s outdoor game. He’s also heard the displeasure from Wings’ fans who don’t care for his jersey number, 22, which was once worn by Lemieux.

“It’s kind of ironic signing here of all places,” Redmond said. “When I was growing up these two teams were clashing hard. Now that I’m wearing No. 22 – old Claude Lemieux – I don’t think too many people around Michigan like that guy.”

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