Earlier this month, it was announced that the Detroit Red Wings and Colorado Avalanche would engage in one more epic battle: an alumni game featuring the stars of their rivalry that spanned from 1996 to 2002. The alumni game is scheduled to take place the day before the February 17th NHL Stadium Series game featuring the current teams.
— Detroit Red Wings (@DetroitRedWings) August 3, 2015
Since the announcement, Brendan Shanahan, Igor Larionov, Nicklas Lidstrom, and Chris Chelios have already committed to playing for the Red Wings’ alumni team, which is expected to feature key players from the height of the rivalry. With those four already on the team, let’s take a look at who would comprise the ultimate alumni team roster, starting with the centers.
Note: These are predictions, not the actual roster. As players commit to playing, their statuses will be updated to reflect their participation.
Though there are more skilled and accomplished centers expected to play for the Red Wings, the entire rivalry with the Avalanche centers around Kris Draper. No one in Hockeytown will ever forget the vicious check Claude Lemieux laid on Draper in the 1996 Western Conference Finals, sparking one of the greatest rivalries in NHL history.
It would be a shock if Draper, who also serves as the Red Wings’ Special Assistant to the General Manager, did not center the Grind Line in a game against their fiercest rival.
As mentioned above, Larionov has already committed to playing for the Red Wings’ alumni team. While Darren McCarty stole the show by pummeling the aforementioned Lemieux, it was actually mild-mannered Larionov who set off the events known as “Fight Night at the Joe” on Wednesday, March 26, 1997. After a high hit from a younger, stronger Peter Forsberg, Larionov fought back and took down Forsberg, igniting one of Red Wings’ fans favorite memories.
Along with Draper, Sergei Fedorov was a Red Wing for the entirety of the Red Wings-Avalanche rivalry. Recently inducted into the NHL Hall of Fame, Fedorov’s contributions to the Red Wings during the rivalry years matched those of Steve Yzerman and he was often tasked with shutting down the Avalanche’s top players. Let’s hope Fedorov breaks out those famous white Nike skates for the alumni game.
— NHL (@NHL) August 6, 2015
This game would not be complete without Steve Yzerman captaining the Detroit Red Wings alumni team as they step out onto the ice in the chilly Denver air. Now the general manager of the Tampa Bay Lightning, Yzerman was involved in just about all of the iconic plays from this rivalry, including his 500th goal, banking in a goal off the back of Patrick Roy in the 1997 Western Conference Finals, and setting up the famous “Statue of Liberty” goal in the 2002 Western Conference Finals, among others.
Prior to the Red Wings-Maple Leafs alumni game in December 2013, there was some debate whether Yzerman would suit up for the Red Wings’ team due to his managerial duties in Tampa Bay. However, fans were elated to see Yzerman step out of Comerica Park’s dugout and don the famous #19 jersey for the alumni team.
Tony Wolak is based in the Washington D.C. area and covers the Detroit Red Wings for THW. As a former junior and college hockey player, Tony has a unique perspective on Red Wings topics.