Former Players, Coaches From Both Teams Speak in Two-Hour Program Debuting June 26
ESPN+ To Have Extended Version with Exclusive Content On-Demand After Initial Airing
One of the most intense rivalries in sports history will be relived in Unrivaled, a new, two-hour ESPN E60 program debuting Sunday, June 26, at 1 p.m. ET on ESPN. The program is hosted by Jeremy Schaap.
The Colorado Avalanche, currently playing in the Stanley Cup Final, and the Detroit Red Wings became heated rivals 25 years ago. Since that time, the landscape of the National Hockey League has changed through a series of events that would impact players and their cities forever.
After Sunday afternoon’s initial airing, an extended version of Unrivaled with exclusive content will be available for on-demand streaming on ESPN+. The TV version will re-air in prime time on Monday, June 27, at 8 p.m. on ESPN2 and at 9 p.m. on Thursday, June 30 on ESPN, and re-air on Sunday, June 26, at 4 p.m. on ESPN2.
“Great rivalries elevate sports,” said Andy Tennant, E60 executive producer. ”They enhance the appreciation of the games we love. They bring out the best in the rivals themselves. Or do they? Is it sometimes more complicated than that? In addition to all the great things about rivalries, they can also go too far. Competition bleeds into something uglier.”
Back in the spring of 1997, in a series of interviews, Avalanche and Red Wings players were asked to define the word “rivalry.” Avalanche forward Claude Lemieux said that it “starts on the ice, but if it stays there, there is not that much to it.”
It started out as two teams decorated with highly-skilled future hall of famers relentlessly pursuing the holy grail of their sport. It became a ferocious clash, fueled by an incomparable hatred not often seen in major sports. This was more than a mere rivalry; it was a blood feud. Its white-hot intensity would lead to games and moments both thrilling and chilling, to indelible victories and premeditated acts of vengeance. The story of the rivalry is one of lifelong bonds, life-changing moments, a remarkable brotherhood and a never-before-seen public reckoning of revenge and retribution. Two and a half decades later, those who were part of it are still coming to terms with how the brutal rivalry went as far as it did.
In Unrivaled, viewers will hear from many who were involved with the two teams at the time including Lemieux, who was at the center of the start of the rivalry that exploded on March 25, 1997, in a massive brawl in Detroit’s Joe Louis Arena. The Red Wings’ Kris Draper, who had been seriously injured when he was checked from behind by Lemieux in a playoff game the year before, and Darren McCarty, who sought revenge on Lemieux in the big brawl, also speak about the rivalry in the program.
Among others interviewed:
Avalanche – Players Adam Foote, Peter Forsberg, Mike Ricci, Patrick Roy and Joe Sakic; trainer Pat Karns and former coach Marc Crawford.
Red Wings – Players Mike Knuble, Vladamir Konstantinov (and his daughter Anastasia), Brendan Shanahan, Mike Vernon and Steve Yzerman; former coach Scotty Bowman and former trainer John Wharton.
NHL commissioner Gary Bettman is also interviewed as are former NHL player and current Avalanche broadcaster Peter McNab, former ESPN NHL broadcaster Gary Thorne, longtime Red Wings broadcaster Ken Daniels, former Red Wings player and current broadcaster Mickey Redmond, former NHL executive Brian Burke, former NHL referee Paul Devorski, Colorado Hockey Now writer Adrian Dater and former Red Wings team photographer Mark Hicks.
In the days leading to the premiere, ESPN programs SportsCenter, Outside the Lines and The Point will include excerpts and discussion of Unrivaled. Former Avalanche player Adam Foote is scheduled to join the OTL segment in the noon ET edition of SportsCenter on Friday, June 24. The ESPN Daily Podcast is expected to have a guest related to Unrivaled on Monday, June 27, leading to the prime time airing on ESPN2 that night.
ESPN.com will publish a longform examination of the Avs-Red Wings rivalry written by Dave Fleming on Friday, June 24.
Unrivaled is produced by Mike Farrell and John Minton.
The Avalanche and the Tampa Bay Lightning are playing in the Stanley Cup Final with all games airing on ABC, ESPN+, ESPN Deportes and the ESPN App.