A glance at the box score of Game 6 of the Wales Conference finals on May 14, 1987, when Philadelphia advanced to the Stanley Cup Final with a 4-3 win over Montreal, doesn’t reveal anything extraordinary. Rick Tocchet’s third-period goal broke a 3-3 tie, and eventual Conn Smythe-winning goalie Ron Hextall made 29 saves to help the Flyers advance.

What happened before the game, though, has resonated for more than three decades.

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“The National Hockey League sank to a new low last night, and that’s an (extreme) low indeed,” wrote Philadelphia Inquirer sports editor Frank Dolson. “Those were major hockey league players out there making a mockery of their sport.”

Don Cherry, the acerbic Canadian broadcaster, said at the time: “I don’t mind the odd brawl, but I didn’t like that.”

Pregame emotions had been building throughout the series, sparked mainly by Claude Lemieux and Shayne Corson. The two Montreal forwards, after warmups had been completed, would shoot a stray puck into the Flyers’ empty net. Their routine irritated the Flyers, but it quickly became part of a psychological game within a game.

Before Game 6 at the Montreal Forum, it all came to a head in one of the most memorable brawls in league history, and one that had lasting effects. Afterward, Flyers forward Ed Hospodar was suspended for the final round — the only player to earn any kind of ban. There was a total of $24,500 in fines.

But more importantly, when players raced to the ice from both dressing rooms before the opening faceoff, there were no referees or linesmen to break it up. The fracas forced the NHL to take a hard look at its reputation. League executives knew that if they ever were going to make the game appealing to a broader fan base, these types of moments would have to disappear. About four months later, the NHL introduced harsh penalties and fines for any players, coaches or teams involved in a similar melee. A 10-game player suspension for coming off the bench to fight was among the new rules.

“Multiplayer brawls have no place in the National Hockey League,” said William Wirtz, then the Blackhawks’ owner and president. ”We feel that this legislation will eliminate what has damaged the image of the league.”

What follows are the insights of more than a dozen participants and observers of the 1987 pregame brawl.