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Mayhem in Philly: An Oral History of the Epic Senators-Flyers Brawl

We spoke to seven players involved in the infamous 2004 Senators-Flyers fight that set an NHL record for most penalty minutes in a single game.

by Mike Commito
Mar 4 2017, 10:46pm

This weekend marks the 13th anniversary of the Senators and Flyers matchup that set an NHL record for the most penalty minutes in one game: 419. That's not a typo. Both Ottawa and Philadelphia combined for four-hundred and nineteen minutes worth of infractions. It eclipsed the previous mark (406) set by the Bruins and North Stars in 1981.

To reflect back on that bruising, record-setting game, VICE Sports caught up with some of the players involved to try to make sense of what happened on that raucous night in Philly.

There was bad blood brewing between the two teams heading into the game. In their last encounter, just over a week earlier, Ottawa's Martin Havlat high-sticked Philadelphia's Mark Recchi in the face. In the aftermath, Flyers head coach, Ken Hitchcock, fanned the flames in the postgame comments. "Someday someone's going to make him [Havlat] eat his lunch...This is something in my opinion that the players should take care of," he said. Havlat was later suspended for two games but was back in the lineup when the Senators were taking on the Flyers at the Wachovia Center.

Shaun Van Allen, played for the Senators from 1996 to 2000. He returned to Ottawa in 2002 as a free agent and finished his NHL career there: Back then, always going into Philadelphia was a challenge and they've always been known to be a big physical team. We were never looked at as being anything more than a skilled team, but it was a good rivalry, they were a good team, we were a good team.

Danny Markov, played 34 games for the Flyers in 2003-04. Overshadowed by the fisticuffs that night was that Markov had actually scored the 10,000th goal in Flyers history, making Philadelphia the first expansion club to reach the milestone: In Philly we had a group of guys that were tough mentally and would play for each other. Whatever happened on the ice, we stuck together, and we had enough characters in the dressing room and on the team.

Rob Ray, played 11 games with Ottawa from 2003 to 2004. Prior to joining the Senators, he played 14 seasons with the Sabres, where he is still the all-time franchise leader in penalty minutes (3,198). He's currently a colour analyst for the Buffalo Sabres: I had not been there long enough to know what was going on, or anything about it. When I played I never really thought about what happened in the past, you just kind of have to live in the moment. I was going into it as an innocent bystander who got caught up in a mess.

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