45 years since NY Islanders legend Billy Smith fought Lanny McDonald in 1979

NHL Fight: Billy Smith and Lanny McDonald
NHL Fight: Billy Smith and Lanny McDonald / NHL Trade Rumors

It was old-time hockey in the late 1970s when you were as likely to see a fight as a goal when attending an NHL game. However, a fight between a goalie and one of the top goal scorers in the league was a rarity, but that's what two future Hall-of-Famers gave fans at the Nassau Coliseum 45 years ago on Mar. 15, 1979.

Late in the third period, with the New York Islanders leading the Toronto Maple Leafs 5-2, goaltender Battlin' Billy Smith and mustached Leafs' winger Lanny McDonald dropped gloves (and, in Smith's case, mask) to battle toe-to-toe in front of Smith's crease in a memorable 10-second bout.

A year earlier, it was McDonald who knocked out the 111-point Islanders with an overtime winner in Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Quarterfinals, beating Glenn 'Chico' Resch for a 2-1 win. That reason alone was enough for Islanders fans to dislike the career 500-goal scorer forever.

"It was one of those things. Billy Smith used to slide across the net, and he'd try to prevent guys from coming out front the other side," explained McDonald in 2012. "So he'd slide across and throw out that stick out and damn near break your legs."

"I think I speared Lanny," said Smith with a smile and without remorse. "Then I decided to challenge him, which was a major mistake. If you're gonna start something, you need to stand up and follow through, and that's what I did."

"He told his defensemen, 'Nah, Nah, he's mine, I got him,' and took off his mask, which I was really happy about." Smith waved off defenseman Pat Price and the fight was on. Both players got their swings in a pretty even tussle. HockeyFights.com gave the fight a respectable score of 6.18.

As McDonald tells it, after the fight he had to ice his hand, but Smith had to ice his head. The two have been friendly since their hockey careers ended, but that doesn't mean Islanders fans will forgive Lanny for what happened in 1978 anytime soon.