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Wings enjoy boos, then cheers

by Dana Wakiji / Detroit Red Wings
Chris Chelios had the best pre-game introduction comeback of the night. When fans at Coors Field booed the former Red Wings' defenseman, he booed back. (Photo by Getty Images)

DENVER -- If only the fans at Coors Field knew how much Darren McCarty enjoyed their boos, they might have remained silent.

For Colorado Avalanche fans, Red Wings McCarty, Kris Draper and Chris Chelios were -- and still are -- the enemy and were treated as such at the alumni game Friday night.

The entire Wings alumni team received plenty of boos when they walked to the ice but during the introductions, it was even more pronounced.

McCarty, who on March 26, 1997, famously avenged Claude Lemieux's breaking Draper's jaw in the 1996 Western Conference finals, not only expected it, he looked forward to it.

"It would have to be getting booed. That was awesome," McCarty said. "That was my favorite part."

McCarty responded by turning and saluting all the fans in each direction.

"I'm a huge Peyton Manning fan," McCarty said. "The Mile High salute was all in utmost respect for the boos. That was my way of saying thanks for booing me. I appreciate being the villain. I got no problem with that."

Draper had heard comments that Adam Foote made on a Denver radio station about how he did not like Draper to this day so he was also expecting a negative reaction from the fans.

"I kind of figured with what transpired over the last 24 hours, I figured I'd get a pretty good boo," Draper said. "No worries, it's all good."

Draper's response was to simply blow a bubble with his gum and smile.

Chelios, who came late to the rivalry but was the perfect addition to the club, had a unique response to being booed: he booed back.

"That's the most boos I've ever heard in my life," Chelios said. "I expected it but it's still funny."

Chelios watched the video of him booing back and said: "I'm a horrible person! I'll probably get a few texts from that."

Somehow, Chelios' teammates were not the least bit taken aback by his response.

"The oldest guy in the room booing back," McCarty said. "So there you go."

"It doesn't surprise me," Draper said. "Cheli never does disappoint in a hostile environment. That's what makes Cheli Cheli."

In spite of the pre-game booing, the fans had a chance to show their appreciation for what the rivalry meant to them and to the sport of hockey.

In the third period, they showed a highlight video and then a sign thanking the teams for playing one more time.

As both teams skated to center ice and raised their sticks, all the fans stood and cheered.

"It was kind of neat," said Steve Yzerman, who was not booed before the game. "When you’re down on the ice level it’s not as loud, the open stadium it carries a little bit but it was kind of a special moment for us all. It’s been a pretty good rivalry."

Yes, they even cheered for McCarty.

"That was great," McCarty said. "I turned around and said, 'Hey guys, this is the first and only time you'll get cheered in Colorado. Enjoy it.' It goes to what I was saying. People realize that this is sort of the closing of that chapter and that appreciation. The hatred's there but the respect is also there. That's from the organization to the players, coaches and to the fans.

"As brutal as this rivalry was, that's how classy and respectful it is at the end. And that's how it should be."

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