As part of our Monday Mashup, we will highlight the infamous Shoe Brawl that occurred on Dec. 23, 1979. This, of course, happened in a game between the Bruins and Rangers. The incident also occurred before the Miracle on Ice and just after the Iranian Hostage Crisis. Let’s take a moment and reflect on what happened during those turbulent times.

A Scene Right Out of Slap Shot

It was like a scene right out of the popular Paul Newman hockey film “Slap Shot.” On Dec. 23, 1979, the Boston Bruins jumped the boards at MSG and went at it with some New York Ranger fans. During the melee, Bruins defenseman Mike Milbury slapped a fan with the man’s own shoe.

The fight ensued after the Bruins had edged out the Rangers 4-3. Some unruly Ranger fans cut Stan Jonathan’s face with a rolled-up program. They also tried to grab Jonathan’s hockey stick, which further led to the on-ice fray between players from both sides. Terry O’Reilly then climbed over the glass and went into the stands to duke it out with the Ranger fans. Peter McNab and other teammates followed suit — and what you had was an all-out brawl that is still fondly remembered today.

The Consequences

Milbury was actually heading back to the locker room when he saw his teammates going into the stands. He rushed back — hit the fan with a shoe — then was restrained by MSG security and other players. As a result of the Shoe Brawl, NHL President John Zeigler suspended Terry O’Reilly for eight games. He also suspended Milbury and McNab for six games. Similarly, they were fined $500 each for the incident.

As a result of the brawl, the NHL mandated all hockey arenas to have higher glass panels installed. This would essentially enclose the ice rinks, preventing fans and players from reaching each other and fighting.

Media Coverage

The Shoe Brawl made national attention and was covered on nearly all the prime-time networks. Critics were also quick to point out that the teams — and fans — may have channeled their anger about the Iran Hostage Crisis on each other. Still, the NHL was very strict on player-on-fan contact, and with the reputation of being the League’s toughest brawlers, the Bruins felt the brunt of the brawl with game suspensions and fines. Here is a video of the brawl that continues to be discussed and debated across the hockey world even today.

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