The last time the Rangers and Kings met in the playoffs, a 21-year-old Wayne Gretzky was in just his second NHL season. Only three Rangers players – Brad Richards, Dominic Moore, and Martin St. Louis – and one Kings player – Willie Mitchell – were even born.
It was 1981 when the two teams met in the preliminary round of the playoffs. The Kings had posted the better regular season record and had taken the season series 3-1. In their first round matchup, the Rangers held a 1-0 advantage, claiming a 3-1 victory in Game 1.
The Blueshirts were up by a goal on the Kings in Game 2 when things got a bit feisty.
The fireworks began when Rangers’ penalty-minute leader Barry Beck reached around the official to land a cheap left hook on the Kings’ Rick Chartraw. After the dust settled, the Kings found themselves on the power play. They took advantage of the opportunity, netting two power play goals to end the period up by a goal.
After the buzzer, Los Angeles winger Dave Taylor skated into the Rangers’ zone instead of leaving the ice. Both teams gathered in front of the Rangers’ net.
“You’ve got to be careful with both teams out on the ice,” said play-by-play man Jim Gordon. “This could get really nasty.”
The Bench-Clearing Brawl
Los Angeles Kings defenseman Jerry “King Kong” Korab sparked the riot with a shove to Rangers’ defenseman Ed “Boxcar” Hospodar. The two clubs jostled and shoved before Dionne and Hospodar (mistakenly identified as Tom Laidlaw by the broadcast crew) consummated the donnybrook by dropping the gloves.
“If the referee goes by the rule book now, there’ll be nobody left to play the hockey game,” said color commentator Bill Chadwick, who spent 16 years in stripes as an NHL official.
Players grappled, tugging on jerseys. Punches were thrown. Combatants piled up on the ice amidst a scattering of gloves and sticks.
On the broadcast, Gordon assessed the scene as “an absolute disgrace. This is going to be a tough situation for Bryan Lewis to handle. If it gets much worse, they’ll have to send the police out there.”
Some highlights of the melee:
3:45 – Watch a Kings player tussle with linesman John D’Amico.
5:52 – Korab and another Kings player doubleteam a Ranger when Don Maloney comes flying in to save the day.
6:24 – Referee Bryan Lewis brings Hospodar over to the bench, where the Ranger is grabbed from behind by Kings goaltender Paul Pageau, who was on the bench in street clothes.
6:40 - Nick Fotiu, in the stands wearing a suit, works his way through the crowd to behind the bench. He does his best WWE-worthy turnbuckle-smash, repeatedly driving his opponent face-first into the glass. [Not sure if that was Paul Pageau, who'd just grabbed Hospodar, or a nearby Kings fan] Security broke up the fight and escorted him out of the crowd.
The reason Fotiu was a healthy scratch? He was serving an eight-game suspension for climbing into the stands to fight with fans.
6:52 – A Kings fan loudly gives his biased opinion of the Rangers
“I’ve been in this league a long long time and I have never seen anything worse than this,” said Bill Chadwick, who refereed in the NHL from 1939-1955. “This kind of a thing can set the game back ten years.”
Los Angeles and New York combined for 229 minutes in penalties during the period, with 125 of those on the Rangers – a NHL playoff single-team record. The two teams committed 43 penalties in the period with the Rangers accounting for 24 — both playoff records that have yet to be broken. Individually, Ed Hospodar racked up a playoff record six penalties and 39 penalty minutes in the period.
The game was officiated by referee Bryan Lewis, who would later go on to become the NHL’s Director of Officiating. At the time, he was in his eleventh year in the league. By his side were linesmen Mark Pare and John D’Amico. Pare, then in his sophomore season, retired in 2010, with 2,169 games under his belt. D’Amico was 17 seasons into what would be a 23-year officiating career. After hanging up the whistle, he spent 17 years as the NHL’s Director of Officials.
Kings Win the Battle; Rangers Win the War
The Kings went on to win the game 5-4 in overtime. The Rangers regained control as the series shifted to Madison Square Garden, where they rolled over Los Angeles with consecutive victories – 10-3 and 6-3 – to take the series.