An exhaustive history of the Tie Domi-Scott Stevens beef

Arun Srinivasan
Contributor

With the sporting calendar effectively shut down due to the COVID-19 pandemic, former Toronto Maple Leafs enforcer Tie Domi used this hiatus to reignite a feud with Scott Stevens, the Hall of Fame defenseman who starred for the Washington Capitals, St. Louis Blues, and most notably, the New Jersey Devils.

Domi and Stevens were both known as some of the most ferocious players of their era, although the latter’s resume is in a different tier. Stevens captained the Devils to three Stanley Cups, was a 13-time all-star, won the Conn Smythe Trophy in 2000 and registered 908 points in 1,635 career games over the span of 22 seasons.

Despite Stevens’ Hall of Fame credentials, Domi doesn’t think much of him.

[Related: Tie Domi calls Scott Stevens 'the biggest phony I ever played against']

“Scott Stevens was the biggest phony I ever played against,” Domi said on the Cam & Strick Podcast, hosted by former NHL player Cam Janssen and reporter Andy Strickland. “Honestly, I chased that guy for years. He was such a phony, it was a joke. Let me put that out there.”

As we all await the return of sports — and some normalcy in our lives, otherwise — here is a history of the beef between Domi and Stevens.

Battle of the Hudson River

Domi is best known for his tenure with the Maple Leafs, but his beef with Stevens predates his time in Toronto.

During the first playoff series between the Rangers and Devils, both teams engaged in a bench-clearing brawl after the Devils defeated the Rangers 5-3 in Game 6 of their first-round series on April 29, 1992, extending the series to an inevitable seventh contest.

New Jersey was celebrating its victory when a brawl broke out, with Stevens and Domi at the center of it. Stevens first got tangled up with Rangers enforcer Joey Kocur, hit Jeff Beukeboom, then set his sights on Domi.

Scott Stevens and Tie Domi's feud is tangentially linked to some of the most famous moments in hockey from the 1990s and early 2000s. (Reuters)

After some sustained wrestling and grappling, New York’s Adam Graves and New Jersey’s Claude Lemieux broke away and started throwing blows, while players from both teams jumped into the fight nearly immediately.

At the 3:28 mark of the below video, which shows the entire brawl, you can see Stevens grappling with Domi on the bench, effectively tying him up from further chaos. A minute after both players were tied up on the bench, both were sent to the dressing room.

Domi wasn’t thrilled that he didn’t get a chance to fight him outright.

"I had three guys and a linesman on me," Domi said to Filip Bondy of The New York Times after the game. "I didn't start anything. It's my job to protect my guys out there."

Nearly three decades later, Domi recounted his memory of being tangled up with Stevens.

"We had a bench-clearing brawl with the Devils one time and (Stevens) bear-hugged me so hard it was unbelievable,” Domi said on the podcast. “Him and I ended up on the bench, he was bear-hugging so hard I said, 'Let go, I'm going to beat the shit out of you,' and he wouldn't let go, he was holding on so tight.”

New York would go on to win Game 7, before losing to the eventual Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh Penguins in the second round.

It was just the beginning of a rivalry known to some as the Battle of Hudson River. The most famous instalment occurred during the 1994 Eastern Conference final, one of the greatest playoff series of all-time. New York defeated New Jersey in double overtime of Game 7, when Stephane Matteau notched the winner past a young Martin Brodeur, who stood on his head with 46 saves on 48 shots.

Trailing 3-2 after five games, Mark Messier famously guaranteed the Rangers would win the series and he delivered on his promise and then some, as they would go on to defeat the Vancouver Canucks in the Stanley Cup Final.

Domi and Stevens’ beef might be a footnote in the history of a larger rivalry but what a thrilling footnote it was, regardless of what your stance on fighting may be.

Domi vs. Peluso

Domi was traded from the Rangers to the Winnipeg Jets midway through the 1992-93 season and the following year, his beef with Stevens resumed.

Stevens unleashed one of his trademark open-ice hits on Domi — he’s the best open-ice hitter of all-time, along with former Islanders captain Denis Potvin, please sound off in the comments if you disagree — drawing the ire of the enforcer.

Domi went at Stevens, trying to get him to fight, but he demurred and Mike Peluso stepped in. It was a spirited fight, the type that truly marks this as a relic of the 1990s, and Domi beat Peluso handily before riling up the opposing crowd by rolling his fists triumphantly en route to the penalty box.

Peluso received an instigator and a game misconduct, Domi received a five-minute major for fighting, while Stevens went unpunished.

It would be another seven years until we got the resolution to this conflict.

The beef resumes

It may sound reductionist, but we can quickly gloss over what happened in the seven years that passed since the beef resumed.

Stevens won his first Stanley Cup, establishing himself as a perennial all-star and one of the most fearsome players in the sport. Domi established himself as one of the game’s most notorious enforcers, carving out a lane as a fan favorite after being traded back to Toronto while being reviled everywhere else.

In Game 6 of the second-round series between the Maple Leafs and Devils on May 8, 2000, Stevens dropped Domi with a crushing forearm. Domi took offense and went after his nemesis, while Stevens sat back and watched the ensuing chaos unfold around him, as he did in the past.

It was a memory Domi wouldn’t forget, leading to one of the more ugly, frenzied moments of the 2000s.

The Scott Niedermayer Incident

Domi appeared to seethe over Stevens’ unwillingness to engage. Instead, he went after Devils star defenseman Scott Niedermayer, an unwilling target during the final seconds of Toronto’s 3-1 victory over New Jersey in Game 4 of the 2001 second-round series.

Niedermayer was skating up the ice without the puck and Domi flew in, throwing a crushing elbow to his face, which the Hall of Fame defenseman only saw at the last second.

It was a frightening scene as Niedermayer laid motionless on the ice, knocked unconscious by the hit. He would leave the ice on a stretcher.

Stevens, who was already serving a two-minute minor for roughing, screamed relentlessly at the officials to punish Domi, giving instructions to teammate Bobby Holik in the interim and received a 10-minute misconduct.

Domi was assessed a match penalty for the deliberate injury of an opponent and would be suspended for the duration of the playoffs, while Niedermayer would return for the Devils and helped the team return to the Stanley Cup Final, where they lost to the Colorado Avalanche in seven games.

Prologue

The history between Domi and Stevens spanned the entirety of a decade and though the duo never engaged in an actual fight, their beef was interspersed in several parts of the defining hockey moments of the 1990s and early 2000s.

We’ll have to wait and see how Stevens responds, decades removed from the on-ice feud.

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