With last week's lost Milbury file on Tommy Salo, the Salo vs. Dan Cloutier fight resurfaced. I had kind of forgotten about it, mostly because it was another moment as a kid that I never heard the end about from Ranger fans.
Looking at the video (and the whole video, not just the Salo/Cloutier portion), it has to be one of the dumbest moments in the Islanders/Rangers rivalry. It definitely wasn't this great moment in time that Ranger fans have made it out to be, especially when you go back and watch the video:
First off, take a look at the scoreboard. It's 3-0 Islanders with 7 minutes left in the third.
I guess we shouldn't be surprised that Darren Langdon (521 GP, 1251 PIM) and PJ Stock (235 GP, 523 PIM) decided this was a good time to start a fight with Zdeno Chara. They were upset that Chara gave probably one of the lightest checks of his career to one of those two goons. You might even question why the Rangers called up Stock, considering the team was already loaded with enforcers such as Langdon, Kevin Stevens, Jeff Beukeboom and Ulf Samuelsson.
Somehow PJ Stock and Mariusz Czerkawski end up together. Any Islander fan who remembers the Polish Wunderkind knows that he's mismatched in just about any fight. During the 97-98 season Czerkawski had 23 PIM total, 15 of them from this game. I guess back then they gave you 5 minutes for being a punching bag. But I digress, because this was when Tommy Salo made the decision to come down the ice to try and separate Stock/Czerkawski. His attempt at that is so weak that the ref throws him off with one hand.
But that's not enough for Cloutier, who saw Salo heading down the rink and decided this was his chance to goalie fight in the big leagues. First off when Cloutier gets down there, the ref still has one hand on Salo which keeps Salo from reacting at all. Secondly Cloutier has already taken off not just his mask, but his glove and blocker before he even comes into frame. Cloutier is pulling Salo's jersey over his head, finally pops off his helmet. But Salo still has his glove, and unfortunately with his other hand he had Cloutier's jersey, which Cloutier allows Salo to just pull off.
Cloutier throws about 10 punches to Salo, whose only reaction the whole time is to turtle. Not that there was all that much Salo could have done to change the result of this fight. Then Cloutier shows how classy he is, as he taunts the Islanders bench. Just to remind you, it's still a 3-0 game for the Islanders, with Cloutier allowing goals to Claude Lapoint, Ziggy Palffy and Joe Sacco to get the loss. Maybe some of the Rangers offensive woes was that a 3rd of their roster were goons.
At the end of the video they recap what happened to start the fight. PJ Stock tried to check Zdeno Chara, and shockingly the 6'9" monster of a human hardly moves. Langdon then decides that not falling after being checked by Stock is some crime against humanity and slams into Chara with almost no effect. It's amazing that this is considered an embarrassing moment for the Islanders. If something like this were to happen today, the Rangers would be the brunt of a lot of jokes and criticism.