I actually bought Blood Feud: Detroit Red Wings v. Colorado Avalanche for my husband but, being a huge Colorado Avalanche fan myself, I decided to read it when he finished. Full disclosure: the majority of this took place before my time. I was young enough to prefer Power Rangers and Buffy the Vampire Slayer at the time and it was hard to watch the games on TV since I didn’t live in either Detroit or Colorado. That being said, most hockey fans at least know the bare bones of the legendary (and ugly) rivalry between two top teams.
For those who don’t know, the whole thing can (depending on who you ask) be traced back to a bad hockey hit made by Avalanche player Claude Lemieux on Kris Draper of the Red Wings. It sent Draper to the hospital where he was found to have several serious injuries including a broken jaw and shattered cheekbone. The following season saw Bloody Wednesday, a game that saw more brutality and fighting than actual hockey playing. From there, a feud the likes of which hasn’t really been seen since developed between the two teams. It was intense. It was violent. And it was an example of what happens when players cross a line.
The videos and images are bad. Like, really bad. I don’t mind a good ol’ hockey fight, but these two teams took it to an ugly level. I don’t think I would have ended up being a fan of either team if that feud was my introduction to hockey, to be honest. That being said, the story of what happened, how everyone felt about it, and how the media on both sides fanned the flames, was an interesting one.
Adrian Dater, the author, was a reporter covering the Avalance and has a fascinating perspective. The information he gave added to what I already knew, and I think many hockey fans would enjoy the book, but with some conditions attached. First of all, there are no introductions to the people involved. If you don’t already know who most of the players are, you’re going to be pretty lost. As it was, there were a LOT of statistics thrown around and I got confused a few times. I think part of that was the way the book itself is presented.
It isn’t necessarily written in chronological order, instead seeming to be a bunch of collected memories woven into book form. I think a little more editing might have made an already riveting story more cohesive. There was one section, in particular, where I was completely thrown: it mentioned Lemieux being married to his first wife, then he was abruptly mentioned as being with his second wife, then it went right back to talking about his first marriage again. All of this happened on one page. It was a bizarre thing to read.
I really liked the quotes. There was a cool combination of bits from articles written at the time and players’ reactions both in the middle of the rivalry and years later. The amount of information and research gathered was impressive. Coaches were spoken to and Dater mentioned the media’s part in stoking the flames of the feud. Actually, I thought a lot of what the media did was disgusting at best and horrible at worst (I don’t mean include Dater in this opinion. He didn’t spread the vitriol other journalists did). He even wrote about some of the run-ins he had with different people involved at the time and how even he wasn’t above the emotion and anger that made those games so intense.
What’s incredibly interesting is how, years later, many of the coaches and players are at least friendly with each other. Well, minus a few people who were most affected. That is completely understandable. Blood Feud was an intensive look at a battle that spilled off the ice, perfect for people who want to know both the impetus and the mindset of everyone involved. That being said, if you don’t know much about what happened but are intrigued, this might not be for you. A better introduction, if you can handle the nasty visuals, is the excellent documentary Unrivaled: Red Wings v Avalanche.