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Happy 47th birthday, Claude Lemieux

Jul 16, 2012, 11:50 AM EDT

Claude Lemieux — aka “Pepe”, aka “Claude the Fraud”, aka “Not on Kris Draper’s Christmas card list” — is 47 today.

To celebrate one of the greatest villains in NHL history, let’s go to the video!

First, here’s the defining moment of Lemieux’s career. Yes yes, I realize he won three four Stanley Cups and the Conn Smythe in 1995, but answer me this:

When you hear Claude Lemieux’s name, what’s the first thing you think of?

Here’s the postscript from that hit, courtesy the New York Times:

When Lemieux checked Draper, his face hit the top of the boards in front of the Detroit bench. He suffered a broken jaw, a concussion, damaged teeth, a possible fracture of the orbital bone and cuts that needed 30 stitches to close.

Afterward, Draper looked like the victim of a car accident. Two hours after the incident, blood still flowed from his mouth and nose and parts of his face were swollen. He will have his fractured jaw surgically repaired on Friday.

The following season, Detroit got its revenge on Lemieux.

(Note the cameo from Jim Van Horne’s sweet moustache):

Imagine being at the Joe for this one. A 6-5 game (decided in overtime, no less) with 18 fighting majors and 144 penalty minutes. The Red Wings fired 47 shots on goal — compared to just 19 from the Avalanche — and it’s not like either team dined out on the power play. The Avs went one-for-six, the Wings one-for-seven.

I could think of worse games to be in attendance for.

Finally, it has to be said — one of Lemieux’s most memorable moments wasn’t a hit that he threw, but rather one he received.

It was during Game 5 of the 1996 Western Conference finals — the game before the Draper incident — when Vladimir Konstantinov caught him with one of the nastiest hipchecks ever:

That hit gets lost in the shuffle sometimes, largely because Colorado went on to win the series. But I honestly think it might be the best hipcheck…ever. Seriously.

Considering the stakes, the player it was on, the impact it made on contact and the spectacular landing…if you’ve got another submission, feel free to post it in the comments section.

  1. jrsaffell - Jul 16, 2012 at 11:55 AM

    When I hear/read the name Claude Lemieux only one word comes to mind.


    • dogsikuystad - Jul 16, 2012 at 12:44 PM


      • michiganhockey11 - Jul 16, 2012 at 12:56 PM

        47 huh? We already knew that turtles live quite a long time…

    • Eberwizzle - Jul 16, 2012 at 8:01 PM

      I think of 4 time Stanley Cup Champion and a guy I wished played for my favorite team

  2. tmoore4075 - Jul 16, 2012 at 11:56 AM

    While that was an awful night back in 96 thanks for not apologizing. It galvanized the Wings when they went after him on March 26th which helped lead them to their first Cup in 42 years. Also set up a great rivalry. Not many regular season games had the anticipation of those Avs/Wings game from 96 to about 2003. Everyone wanted to watch those games not knowing what could happen. Not just Wings and Avs fans.

  3. redwingsfan999 - Jul 16, 2012 at 12:03 PM

    Watching that wings avs rivalry i used 2 hate lemieux with a passion, but now that’s it’s over and it’s been a long time since that hit on draper on march 26th 1996, I don’t hate him as much. I hated him 4 his style of play and his attitude but that could have been just an act 4 hockey. Happy birthday.

    • lostpuppysyndrome - Jul 16, 2012 at 12:12 PM

      Dude got his just desserts from McCarty, but was still one heck of a hockey player. Draper hit aside, he’s one of the guys you want on your team come playoff time, or you hope to high heaven that you don’t have to play against him.

    • dogsikuystad - Jul 16, 2012 at 12:46 PM

      I still hate him just as much.

      • lordfletcher - Jul 16, 2012 at 1:40 PM

        I am hoping there is a new rivalry that can match this for years to come.

        as a Wild fan and former North Stars nut, I am hoping that Chicago and my Minnesota club can play like they used to 25 years ago… and or would LOVE to see the Jets and Wild form a hatred for one in another. Two great fans bases collide and are very close in location (for a western conf rivalry)

        what do you think Lostpuppy ? LOL

        Go wild

      • lostpuppysyndrome - Jul 16, 2012 at 4:49 PM

        Hey man, I’ll cheer for the Wild any time…except when they play the Jets. It’s a terrible position to be in, I know.

  4. ruddigervancity - Jul 16, 2012 at 12:05 PM

    You can tell this was from the 90’s because there was no 10 man scrum for 5 minutes following a clean hipcheck.

    • stakex - Jul 16, 2012 at 12:28 PM

      Its sad, but thats probably the best point to be made from these videos.

  5. zaksyuk - Jul 16, 2012 at 12:08 PM

    What comes to my mind is a bloody mess #DarrenMccarty !

    • dogsikuystad - Jul 16, 2012 at 1:15 PM

      These are some of my favorite highlights. I’m sad that the shots of Lemieux and Roy’s bloody faces got left out.

  6. eyecorporations - Jul 16, 2012 at 12:22 PM

    Brad Marchand needs to watch that last video and learn what a real hipcheck is.

  7. govtminion - Jul 16, 2012 at 12:28 PM

    Ohhhh, some good memories in there. Not a big Lemieux fan, but raised in Denver in the ’90s I was a diehard for the Avs/Wings rivalry- those were some of the best hockey games I’ve ever watched. Fun to click those videos and see where it all began again.

  8. dannythebisforbeast - Jul 16, 2012 at 12:30 PM

    Happy Birthday Claude! You cheap shot SOB.

  9. ct14flyers - Jul 16, 2012 at 12:33 PM

    The NHL needs another Lemieux or Barnaby. This makes me miss the class act that was Peter Forsberg though.

  10. dogsikuystad - Jul 16, 2012 at 12:50 PM

    I find it amusing that this is a page wishing Claude Turtle Lemieux happy birthday, then shows three videos: one where Claude Lemieux makes a dirty hit, one where he gets destroyed by McCarty, and one where he takes one of the greatest hipchecks ever given and lands squarely on his ugly face.

    Nice job NBCSports.

    • Mike Halford - Jul 16, 2012 at 12:57 PM

      Thank you, thank you.

    • jbreyare - Jul 16, 2012 at 6:27 PM

      Why do you call him turtle? Selective memory. Do you not remember the fact that the reason that Lemieux covered up in the first place was because McCarty sucker punched him to get him down or the fact that the next time they faced off, Lemieux beat the crap out of McCarty?

  11. credible316 - Jul 16, 2012 at 12:51 PM

    Draper had it coming!

  12. quizguy66 - Jul 16, 2012 at 12:57 PM

    Happy Birthday Claude!!

    Here’s a classic:

    And this one:

    Gotta love Claude.


  13. zaksyuk - Jul 16, 2012 at 1:04 PM

    And here i was thinking players with severe concussions died at early ages……………………….. So sorry I absolutely had to do it!

  14. blkeskimo1785 - Jul 16, 2012 at 1:15 PM

    Mike, he won four cups: ’86 (MTL), ’95 (NJ), ’96 (COL), ’00 (NJ).

    • Mike Halford - Jul 16, 2012 at 1:27 PM

      yep, caught it. thanks.

  15. garrison1981 - Jul 16, 2012 at 1:48 PM

    Was a freshly 15 yr old kid with my father lucky enough to have been at that game March 26. @JLA! We got tickets knowing it was gonna be a good game, not knowing it was gonna be legendary! I still get chills thinking bout that game! Miss this type of rivalry! Go Wings!

  16. icdogg - Jul 16, 2012 at 2:26 PM

    I named my cat after him. Clawed Le Mew.

  17. williplett - Jul 16, 2012 at 4:24 PM

    Claude Lemieux is the Forrest Gump of the NHL-at the right place at the right time. That’s why he’ll never make it into the HOF.

    • williplett - Jul 16, 2012 at 5:42 PM

      The two thumbs down obviously came from Brodeur and Roy.

  18. capesouth - Jul 16, 2012 at 4:25 PM

    I remember Neely losing it on CL. He used to do nothing but shadow Neely in their matchups and one day, Neely blew a gasket.

  19. emperorzero - Jul 16, 2012 at 4:27 PM

    I try not to be THAT GUY and talk about how great the “old days” were, but in the early to mid 90’s, this was hockey at it’s finest. To this day the only thing better than an Avalanche win is a Red Wings loss, and Red Wing fans (at least back in the day) would say the same thing about an Avalanche loss.

  20. jbreyare - Jul 16, 2012 at 6:05 PM

    Funny how people have selective memory and think the Lemieux hit is what started it all. Take a look at this video. this hit happened 2 games BEFORE the Lemieux hit and there was also an incident where one of the russians took a 2 handed baseball swing to the back of Forsberg’s legs and broke their stick doing it. That also happened BEFORE the Lenmieux hit. The Lemieux hit wasn’t NEARLY as bad as the Kozlov hit. The result was worse but the actual hit itself wasn’t even close. If that hit happened anywhere else on the ice, Draper ends up fine. Draper even turned a bit right before the hit. Lemieux never intended to hurt Draper like that. The Kozlov hit, there’s only one expected outcome of that and that’s serious damage. Foote is probably lucky that’s all that happened to him. that was best case scenario. Still had 25 stitches to his head and NO PENALTY called. Selective memory be a bunch of people from that whole series.

    • williplett - Jul 16, 2012 at 6:46 PM

      So the painfully obvious cheap shot from Claude Lemieux that busted up a bunch of those fancy bones in Draper’s face is TOTALLY justified because Kozlov (5 foot 10 inch Russian forward) messed up Foote (a rugged six foot two Dman who had over 1500 penalty minutes)?

      No sale.

      • jbreyare - Jul 16, 2012 at 7:08 PM

        That’s not what I’m saying. i’m not saying the Lemieux hit was ok. I’m just saying that’s not the hit thatstarted it all and the Kozlov hit was way worse. Two wrongs don’t make a right but Red Wings fans and fans in general forget all the other crap that happened before the Draper hit.

      • blkeskimo1785 - Jul 17, 2012 at 12:16 AM

        What was justified was Lemieux sucker-punching Kozlov in the back of the head later in that game.

    • blkeskimo1785 - Jul 17, 2012 at 12:15 AM

      Actually, it was Keith Primeau that took the two-handed swing on Forsberg’s legs. It happened in Game 1.

  21. thegrindline - Jul 16, 2012 at 7:25 PM

    Jbreyare you have to be the biggest idiot on this Site. Do you honestly think the Kozlov hit was worse than what happened to Draper?

    • jbreyare - Jul 16, 2012 at 7:33 PM

      Worse than what HAPPENED to Draper? No. Read what I said. I’m talking about the actual hit itself. Was Draper more hurt afterwards? Of course. Like i said, if that hit takes place anywhere else on the ice, Draper walks away form that and may not even get injured. Lemieux’s intent there was not to injure. The same can’t be said for Kozlov’s intent. The only result that could happen from that hit was Footer getting hurt. He’s lucky he wasn’t hurt more. Lucky he ONLY got 25 stitches. The Draper hit gets more attention because Draper got hurt worse. It’s also what most Red Wings fans like to say is what started the rivalry. they forget thoe hot on Foote and they forget the hit on Forsberg with the stick. Both those happened 2 games BEFORE the Draper hit.

    • jbreyare - Jul 16, 2012 at 7:35 PM

      So READ before you start calling people idiots. you may look like one yourself.

      • thegrindline - Jul 16, 2012 at 8:02 PM

        I read and understood all of your previous comments. It does not matter if Draper would have been fine if he was hit in the same spot Foote was. What matters was the “turtle” himself decided to cross check a players face into the boards. I don’t know about you but the first thing I learned playing hockey is that when a player has his back turned to you and can see his numbers, don’t touch him.

  22. jbreyare - Jul 16, 2012 at 8:36 PM

    Cross checked him into the glass? What hit are you looking at? He hit him with his shoulder and hit the back of drapers shoulder after draper turned. Draper then hit the top of the boards. Not the glass. That’s great you learned not to hit someone in the back. I learned not to grab the back of someone’s head and drive it into the glass. Again, larionov was trying to hurt foote. Lemieux wasn’t trying to hurt draper. You call him a turtle but you don’t mention that McCarty cheap shotted him to get him to the ground or the fact that Lemieux beat McCarty up when they squared up face to face next time they played each other.

  23. hgfrombc2 - Jul 16, 2012 at 10:26 PM

    Nice post, Florio wannabe!

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