All 419 PIM from the 2004 Flyers-Senators brawl, ranked from least to most ridiculous

The Philadelphia Flyers are hosting the Ottawa Senators Saturday night, and you can expect to see a lot of highlights featuring the two teams this week.

Not from tonight’s game. I’m sure it will be fine, maybe even a good game, and if we’re lucky we’ll get an exciting moment or two. But I’m willing to bet that it won’t end up being more memorable than the meeting between these two teams from almost exactly 20 years ago.

Yes, it’s time to mark the anniversary of That Game – a contest so infamous that it has its own Wikipedia page. Nearly two decades ago, the Senators and Flyers met in a matchup that ended up setting the NHL’s all-time record for penalty minutes in a single game.

A total of 419, to be exact, more than any game the 1970s Broad Street Bullies ever played. More than the Battle of Alberta ever served up. More than any old Norris Division game, or Battle of Quebec meeting. And more — just barely — than the brawl-filled Boston–Minnesota game in 1981 that had held the record for over 23 years until these two teams came along.

The 20th anniversary arrives on Tuesday, and we’ll mark the anniversary with a thorough, well-reported oral history from Ian Mendes and Kevin Kurtz. Today, we’re just going to get weird.

We’re going to rank those penalty minutes. Yes, every single one of them, from the least to the most ridiculous.

But first, let’s refresh your memory and/or relive the game’s wildest moments. Through the first 58 minutes, there had been only 11 penalties called, all of them minors. But at the 58:15 mark of the third period, with the Flyers leading 5-2, things went decidedly off the rails.

There’s a lot to unpack there. Let’s get to work.

0-out-of-100 Ridiculousness Rating

58:15 PHI Donald Brashear, Instigator 2
58:15 PHI Donald Brashear, Fighting 5
58:15 OTT Rob Ray, Fighting 5

This is the fight that kicked everything off, two minutes before the end of regulation. While the game hadn’t seen many penalty minutes up until this point, it had certainly been chippy. There was lingering bad blood from a Martin Havlat slash in the previous meeting, and this one had been highlighted by a blindside hit by Tony Amonte on Bryan Smolinski that seemed to set the tone. (This longer clip includes some of that prelude.) Tension was building, and Brashear had been in the middle of a lot of it, so you felt like something might be coming.

I considered giving this one a few ridiculousness points just for the always-weird reminder that Rob Ray did briefly play for a team that wasn’t the Sabres. But these are two legitimate tough guys and they’re not messing around, so I’m going to make this the baseline.


58:15 PHI Donald Brashear, Fighting 5
58:15 PHI Donald Brashear, Misconduct 10
58:15 PHI Donald Brashear, Game misconduct 10
58:15 OTT Todd Simpson, Fighting 5
58:15 OTT Todd Simpson, Game misconduct  10

While a bloodied Ray is being escorted off the ice, Brashear gets involved in a second altercation. The cameras don’t really catch it, but it involves Todd Simpson, a hard-nosed defenseman who had just been traded to Ottawa a few weeks earlier.

Again, these are two legitimate tough guys, and things are about to spiral completely out of control, so I’m not giving any points to these two. I do have to hand out a few points to Brian Pothier, though. He’s No. 2 for the Senators, the guy you can see reaching around the linesman to throw punches at Brashear. You’ll notice that he isn’t listed in the penalties above, because… well, he didn’t get any. Yeah, dude risked it all by throwing multiple haymakers at the other team’s tough guy, and didn’t earn a single minute of the record-breaking PIM total. I guess they just forgot. Do you think that bothers him to this day? It would bother me.

You’ll note that Brashear gets 25 minutes here, and will ultimately wind up with 34 just for this single shift. This is the part where I’m obligated to remind you that referee Paul Devorski gave out 22 minutes for the entire Red Wings/Avalanche brawl in 1997, including the goalie fight and Darren McCarty repeatedly kneeing Claude Lemieux in the head. I feel like that should be a unit of measurement. Brashear got 25 minutes for this fight, or 1.14 Devorskis.

Anyway, the Devorski approach was certainly one way to handle a fight-filled game. It’s fair to say that the refs for this Flyers-Senators games, Dan Marouelli and Marc Joannette, are going to employ another. We’ll get to that.


58:18 PHI Mattias Timander, Fighting 5
58:18 OTT Zdeno Chára, Instigator 2
58:18 OTT Zdeno Chára, Fighting 5
58:18 OTT Zdeno Chára, Misconduct 10
58:18 OTT Zdeno Chára, Game misconduct 10
58:18 PHI Radovan Somik, Fighting 5
58:18 OTT Chris Neil, Fighting 5

We skip ahead to the second line brawl, which sees the Senators seeking some payback and sending out Zdeno Chara and Chris Neil to extract it. While the Brashear/Ray fight started things off, and Brashear going after Simpson elevated it, this is where the game truly got out of control.

I’m giving it a few points because, let’s be honest, every Chara fight was at least a little bit ridiculous. They were also terrifying. Mattias Timander was listed at 6-foot-2 and 230 pounds, and Chara looks like a daycare teacher hauling a misbehaving student away from the playground. He manages to get a misconduct on top of the fighting penalties, bringing his total for the night to 1.23 Devorskis. Luckily for Timander, this is one of the (many) Chara fights where he’s not quite angry enough to do real damage.

Neil, not so much, as he pounds on Radovan Somik. As you might suspect, this was the only fighting major of Somik’s NHL career, which would last for just a few more weeks before he headed back to Europe for a decade. Can’t say I blame him.


5:17 PHI Tony Amonte, Holding – Obstruction 2
23:57 OTT Mike Fisher, Tripping 2
26:06 OTT Todd Simpson, Holding 2
33:08 PHI Radovan Somík, Slashing 2
37:07 OTT Mike Fisher, High sticking 2
54:21 OTT Todd Simpson, Slashing 2

Just some housekeeping here, as we cross off some of the game’s earlier minors, including our friend Somik in happier times. And yes, that does say “Holding – Obstruction” for Amonte, not just holding. Back in the clutch-and-grab days, there was so much holding that we had to have separate categories to keep track of it all. Yes, it was a fantastic time to be a fan, thanks for asking.


49:03 PHI Alexei Zhamnov, Roughing 2
49:03 OTT Daniel Alfredsson, Roughing 2
52:18 OTT Bryan Smolinski, Roughing 2
52:18 PHI Patrick Sharp, Roughing 2

Coincidental roughing minors? How quaint. Ah well, at least it’s a chance to recognize guys like Smolinki and Patrick Sharp who we won’t see again because they never fight, he said, engaging in a little ironic foreshadowing.


58:15 PHI Danny Markov, Fighting 5
58:15 PHI Danny Markov, Game misconduct 10

We’re back to the initial line brawl, as Danny Markov gets five and a game for fighting. Who did he fight? No idea. Nobody, according to the box score. This is one of those mystery fights that just gets lost in the bookkeeping of an NHL game, when the on-ice officials have a few more pressing matters to deal with. Again, you can’t tell me Pothier isn’t furious about this.

I’m furious too because Markov was legitimately nuts but doesn’t do anything especially wild here. He does get recognized by the officials, at least, and for that, we salute them.


58:15 PHI Branko Radivojevič, Fighting 5
58:15 PHI Branko Radivojevič, Game misconduct 10
58:15 PHI Branko Radivojevič, Game misconduct 10
58:15 OTT Shaun Van Allen, Fighting 5
58:15 OTT Shaun Van Allen, Game misconduct 10
58:15 OTT Shaun Van Allen, Game misconduct 10

I’m guessing not too many people had a Branko Radivojevič vs. Shaun Van Allen tilt pencilled in for the night’s dance card, but here we are. We barely see any of this one because it’s upstaged by the goalie fight, but whatever happens is enough to earn both guys the rare double game misconduct. That’s right guys, you both have to leave the game twice because whatever you did was worse than the entire Wings-Avs brawl.


58:15 OTT Patrick Lalime, Goalie leave crease 2
58:15 OTT Patrick Lalime, Fighting 5
58:15 OTT Patrick Lalime, Game misconduct 10
58:15 PHI Robert Esche, Goalie leave crease 2
58:15 PHI Robert Esche, Fighting 5
58:15 PHI Robert Esche, Game misconduct 10
58:15 PHI Robert Esche, Game misconduct 10

Two things we should all be able to agree on when it comes to goalie fights: They’re awesome, and they’re all at least a little bit ridiculous. One dude in full sumo gear waddling down the ice to fight another guy in sumo gear, both of whom are frantically trying to shake off gloves and blockers that are apparently welded onto their bodies each intermission, all to engage in a fight that has a 50 percent chance of being over within seconds because nobody knows what they’re doing and somebody falls down? Ridiculous. And also awesome.

And as goalie fights go, this one is pretty good. It’s no Ron Hextall-Felix Potvin or Patrick Roy-Mike Vernon, but both guys acquit themselves reasonably well. Full marks all around.

Note that Esche gets an extra game misconduct here. I’m not sure if that’s a sketchy third-man-in call for the earlier scrum, for his jersey coming off, or something else, but it brings the total for this one line brawl to 163 minutes, or 7.4 Devorskis.


58:21 PHI Michal Handzuš, Fighting 5
58:21 PHI Michal Handzuš, Misconduct 10
58:21 PHI Michal Handzuš, Game misconduct 10
58:21 OTT Mike Fisher, Fighting 5
58:21 OTT Mike Fisher, Misconduct 10
58:21 OTT Mike Fisher, Game misconduct 10

This is round three, and it officially only involves two combatants, even though multiple other guys have their gloves off and Pothier is presumably ready to run in with a steel chair just to get noticed. These aren’t traditional heavyweights, but Michael Handzus was a big boy and Mike Fisher could really throw.

By the way, I suppose this is as good a place as any to mention this: Yes, I realize the commentary on this clip isn’t exactly the most, um, neutral bit of broadcasting you’ll ever here. It’s not quite “Another Right by Roy!” but there’s a very subtle bias you might pick up on, and you’re just going to have to live with it. (Have I ever pitched you on my idea for a service that re-records commentary for famous hockey moments to remove the hometown announcers and make the clips accessible to a wider audience, the same way we colorize old black-and-white movies? I am now accepting calls from venture capitalists.)


58:15 PHI Donald Brashear, Roughing 2

Quickly back to the first round for one of my favorite penalties of the entire night. In the middle of a massive line brawl that includes a full-fledged goalie fight, Rob Ray bleeding everywhere, Brashear fighting multiple guys, Markov doing whatever he did, Simpson cracking heads, and The Great Radivojevič vs. Van Allen showdown of 2004, they still find time to make sure Brashear gets that extra roughing minor into the books. Seriously, Brian Pothier has to be livid about this, you can’t tell me otherwise.


58:45 PHI Mark Recchi, Fighting 5
58:45 PHI Mark Recchi, Game misconduct 10
58:45 OTT Bryan Smolinski, Fighting 5
58:45 OTT Bryan Smolinski, Game misconduct 10

We managed to get a few seconds of hockey before the bell rings for round four. One of our two fights features the unlikely pairing of Mark Recchi and Bryan Smolinksi, the latter of whom you may recall has already dropped the gloves once without getting a penalty. No such luck this time, as these two flyweights deliver what might actually be the best fight of this entire card. Still, this whole thing has now been going on way too long, we have to give out a few extra points for that moment at the end when both guys’ controllers get unplugged.


55:57 PHI Patrick Sharp, Too many men on ice, 2

I don’t know why, but this penalty, the last one called in the third period before everything went to hell, always cracks me up. Yeah, there’s about to be too much of something on the ice, guys.


58:45 OTT Wade Redden, Fighting 5
58:45 OTT Wade Redden, Misconduct 10
58:45 OTT Wade Redden, Game misconduct 10
58:45 PHI John LeClair, Fighting 5
58:45 PHI John LeClair, Misconduct 10
58:45 PHI John LeClair, Game misconduct 10

Round four’s undercard features a fight between John LeClair and Wade Redden, kind of. I’m not completely sure there’s even a punch thrown here, as Redden basically just tackles LeClair and tries to win by pinfall. No matter, as the referees are officially sick of all this and are throwing penalties around like Gritty working the t-shirt cannon.

And yes, I’m just going to say the quiet part out loud, since I’ve been hinting at it for this entire post: We all agree that this 419 PIM record is completely fake, right? This was a wild game and there were several fights, but it absolutely has no place alongside some of those 1980s and 1990 bench clearers. This is just two referees getting ticked off and turning this car right around. Redden tackles LeClair and it’s worth 50 penalty minutes. Well, that’s not actually true, because…


58:45 PHI John LeClair, Holding 2

Yes, at some point during that last shift, LeClair also gets a holding penalty. Look, I’ve gone back and rewatched that sequence more times than I probably should have, and I can tell you that from the moment the Flyers lose possession of the puck until the “fight” starts, LeClair does not hold anyone. He literally doesn’t touch anyone. Yet he gets two minutes here, for one of two reasons. It’s either a case of mistaken identity, or (my theory) the refs completely invented a minor out of thin air, presumably in hopes that the teams would adhere to the unwritten rule that you can’t have a line brawl when one team is shorthanded.

Either way, this is my single favorite penalty of the entire night. Two for holding, Johnny, we can’t allow any rule-breakers out here. We live in a society!


18:47 PHI Patrick Sharp, Fighting 5
18:47 PHI Patrick Sharp, Misconduct 10
18:47 PHI Patrick Sharp, Game misconduct 10
18:47 OTT Jason Spezza, Fighting 5
18:47 OTT Jason Spezza, Misconduct 10
18:47 OTT Jason Spezza, Game misconduct 10
18:47 OTT Jason Spezza, Game misconduct 10

And with that, we reach our main event of the evening, a superheavyweight bout between Jason Spezza and Patrick Sharp. And to their credit, they give it their best, throwing some big punches in a fight that lasts roughly three seconds before they lose their balance and drop to the ice. Hey, it’s better than you or I could have done.

For their efforts, they earn a combined 60 minutes, or just short of one full Devorski per second. That’s enough to push this game from fourth on the all-time PIM list all the way to number one. We did it, everyone. History has been made, and despite there being over a minute left in the game, everyone else can take the night off.

Except you, Pothier. You get back out there until you earn yourself a penalty minute.

(Photo of Patrick Lalime and Robert Esche: George Widman / The Associated Press)

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