It was a dark and stormy night.
Or, perhaps it wasn't. It was Friday, November 12th, 2004. Colorado's AHL affiliate, the Hershey Bears, were in Providence to take on the Bruins. 7,024 fans were in attendance that night. Thankfully, one of them had a camera with them.
The sparks began to fly late in the first period, when heavyweights Dennis Bonvie of Hershey fought with the Bruins' Colton Orr. Orr, you might recall, would be the recipient of that Dale Purinton eye gouge in a preseason game the following October. Bonvie and Orr would drop the gloves twice more that year as they continued to work out their minor differences. According to this link, in this game Orr dropped Bonvie with one punch.
In the 2nd period, things became a little more heated. I can't find any "official" links to the Providence Journal story about that night, but someone on the HF Boards has a copy:
The excitement started when the Bears' Jeff Finger lost his helmet near the P-Bruins' bench. When Finger was able to retrieve it, it was filled with snow. So he and Providence captain Jay Henderson had words on the bench, and it continued on the ice.
Yes, that Jeff Finger.
The two dropped gloves in front of the Hershey net late in the second period, but it wasn't much of a fight as both fell to the ice and were pulled apart by the linesmen.
Since there was less than five minutes remaining in the period, the players were escorted to their respective benches and each disappeared down the runway heading to the locker rooms.
In most places, that would have been the end. But at the Dunkin' Donuts Center, the players have to walk through a common hallway to get to the respective locker rooms.
When play resumed, the two players continued to have words in the lower concourse. A couple of Hershey players left the bench and joined Finger. According to Henderson, he had three to four Bears players on him when someone alerted the P-Bruins' bench. Suddenly, both benches emptied and the players on the ice joined in.
Dunkin' Donuts Center security guards attempted to break up the brawl, but reinforcements and Providence police officers also were pressed into service.
Now that is a hockey game. But, there's more. Not only did both benches empty, but the refs also left the ice, leaving just two players - the goalies. Hannu Toivonen and Peter Budaj skated slowly to their respective blue lines, sized each other up and, at some point, decided to go.
Thanks to youtube, you too can see the grainy cam footage. In what seems to fit his personality to a "T", Budaj soundly defeated Toivonen and then offered him his hand after the deal was done.
Toivonen, Budaj, Henderson, Finger and 90210's Brendan Walsh (save your letters, nerds, I know the TV Walsh was a Brandon) were all ejected from the game. Henderson was given a 3-game suspension and Finger served a 1-game suspension. Apparently, the game didn't cause a great deal of ill will between the teams, as the two clubs made a trade on the following Monday.
Here's the box score from the game. Besides Finger and Budaj, a couple other familiar faces played in that game. Cody McCormick scored a powerplay goal in the game, with Bears captain Brett Clark notching an assist. Johnny Boychuk played in the game, as did Marek Svatos.
2004-2005 would be the last year for Hershey as the Avalanche's AHL affiliate. The following season, as Washington's affiliate, Hershey won the Calder Cup under the tutelage of head coach Bruce Boudreau.
The Budaj fight has always been one of my favorites, but I think the most interesting thing about the fight might be the description of Budaj by the Hershey fan at the end of that HF thread:
to date[,] the fight is the highlight of the season for Budaj.
Tommy Lawson seems to have more flashes of skill then Peter does. Its Budaj's third season here and that usually translates into make or break time. The guy leaves the biggest rebounds in the league and he has problems with in close, short side. But...get the Bears to shootout and Peter is unstoppable.
Does anyone else remember that first season after the lockout? The NHL was introducing that stupid new shootout, and Budaj was expected to have a big advantage because of his AHL experience. As it turned out, his .357 shootout save percentage was worse than 65 other NHL goalies that year. He's improved a bit (593 the following year, 556 last year), but it's still one of the biggest weaknesses in his game. But hey, if this goalie thing doesn't work out for him, I think he could find work as an enforcer.