“It was a wild moment in my life,” Milbury said, recalling his role in a similar incident in December 1979, when he joined some of his Boston Bruins teammates in the stands at Madison Square Garden at the end of a game against the Rangers.
Milbury, now Islanders general manager, has been remembered for being caught on camera pulling the shoe off a fan and whacking him with it. That image 25 years later has become somewhat comical, but the scene in Auburn Hills had Milbury remembering what he felt during the bedlam in the stands.
“It was a powder keg,” he said.
The game had ended and Milbury had gone into the Bruins’ locker room. Rangers and Bruins players met along the boards and some pushing and shoving ensued. A fan reached over the glass and grabbed the stick out of Bruin Stan Jonathan’s hand. Jonathan tried to reach up to get it, but the fan swung it over the players. Terry O’Reilly, now a Rangers assistant, was the first player to climb into the stands to get at the fan, followed by several Bruins teammates. Milbury returned, climbing a set of stairs to join his teammates.
“I was like, ‘What is going on here?'” Milbury said. “Then your heart rate goes from resting to 175 in a matter of seconds … I remember it was a very dangerous time and it was, for me, to make sure nothing happens to your buddies, but protect yourself if something breaks out here. There wasn’t enough time to be discriminating.”
Milbury, who was suspended for six games, said: “The shoe part, I’m amused by it after 30 years in the business. My legacy is not that I played on some good teams and coached some good teams and was a manager, but it’s that I cuffed a guy in the leg with his shoe.”