Mike Bishai was an undrafted free agent who played 14 games with the Oilers never scoring a goal. Despite that, most Oilers fans know his name.
It’s because of the epic brawl the Oilers had with the visiting Atlanta Thrashers back in 2004. Either you remember watching it or you’ve had somebody tell you about it. Those Oilers teams of the early 2000s might not have been the most skilled bunch out there, but they were never easy to play against.
The Thrashers learned that the hard way.
It all started in the third period, with the Oilers cruising to a 4-1 victory. With under five minutes to go in the game, Thrashers defenceman Garnet Exelby speared Ethan Moreau, and the pair dropped the gloves. Play resumed as normal for a few minutes and then all hell broke loose as the Thrashers tossed all of their goons on the ice at once.
At centre ice, it looks like Jason Chimera is going to get into it with Jeff Cowan, so Georges Laraque steps in to get in the middle of it. That brings defenceman Ivan Majesky into the picture and everybody else on the ice follows.
Laraque was looking for a fight with Andy Sutton, but the big, 6’6″ defender wouldn’t answer the bell. Instead, Sutton would find a dance partner in Eric Brewer, leading colour commentator Ray Ferarro, his former teammate in Atlanta, to basically call him a coward on the broadcast.
Brewer did a good job of holding his own with Sutton, considering the difference in size between the two players. Meanwhile, as the camera is focused solely on Sutton and Brewer, Kevin Quinn points out that Mike Bishai has been tossed into the Thrashers’ bench by Serge Aubin and the two are going at it from there.
The camera finally pans to bird’s eye view of Bishai, standing up in Atlanta’s bench surrounded by white uniforms, feeding Aubin with right hooks. As that breaks up, Ty Conklin and Pasi Nurminen get in on the action, meeting up at centre ice to complete the chaos. As that’s going on, Big Georges finally finds somebody to throw down with. It’s Francis Lessard, a fellow heavyweight Laraque would know well from the QMJHL.
When it’s all said and done, the Thrashers play the remaining couple of minutes without a goaltender as Nurminen has been ejected and starter Byron Dafoe had left the game earlier with an injury. Ales Hemsky would bury a puck into the empty net for good measure and the charged-up Oilers would skate away with a 5-1 win.
Here’s a description of the melee from Joanne Ireland of the Edmonton Journal, the day after it happened…
This penalty summary from Hockey-Reference should also give you an idea of what kind of madness ensued that night…
And, finally, here’s the video, courtesy of Hockey Fights, in all of its glory…
The star of this whole thing was certainly Bishai, who made himself a cult hero in Edmonton for kicking Serge Aubin’s ass despite being thrown into the opposing team’s bench. The imagine of Bishai just wailing on Aubin as the Thrashers on the bench just stood around in complete confusion is absolutely hilarious.
After the game, head coach Craig MacTavish said he had never seen anything like it before, which is pretty impressive given the wild things that guy saw during his time in the league.
“We had a bad angle of the Bishai incident, but we saw it on replay and it was pretty impressive,” MacTavish said. “As many years as I’ve been in the game, I’ve never seen a guy fighting standing up in the opposition’s bench.
“That’s like diving into somebody else’s foxhole.”
Bishai might not have had a very long career in the NHL, but he certainly made a name for himself.