Happy 47th birthday, Claude Lemieux

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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.