With 6:07 left in the second period of the final game of the tournament between Canada and the Soviet Union, Pavel Kostichkin took a two-handed slash at Theoren Fleury, sparking a fight between the two; the USSR's Evgeny Davydov left the bench to assist Valeri Zelepukin in the fight, who was already playing the game with a separated shoulder, and was being pummeled by Canadian forward Mike Keane. Davydov's intervention sparked one of the most infamous bench-clearing brawls in international hockey history.
The officials, unable to break up the brawl, walked off the ice and tournament officials eventually tried shutting off the arena lights, but the brawl lasted for 20 minutes before the International Ice Hockey Federation declared the contest null and void. An emergency meeting was held following the brawl that ended with the delegates voting 7–1 to eject both teams from the tournament, with the sole dissenter being Canadian Dennis McDonald. The Canadian team, disgusted at what they perceived to be a conspiracy against them, chose to leave rather than stay for the end-of-tournament dinner, from which the Soviet team were banned.
While the Soviets were out of medal contention, Canada was playing for the gold medal, and were leading 4–2 at the time of the brawl (they needed to win by at least five goals to claim the gold).  Even had they lost the game, they were assured at least the bronze medal. Afterwards, Soviet hockey official Anatoly Kastriukov claimed that the hostilities were fueled by a Canadian trainer who he alleged had punched one of the Soviet assistant coaches in the stomach. Some Canadians maintained that the Soviets had started the brawl by leaving their bench first, and had deliberately done so with the intention of getting Canada ejected.
The ejections of the Canadian and Soviet teams had the retroactive effect of making the Finland-Czechoslovakia game (played earlier the same day) the gold medal game, while the Sweden-United States game became the bronze medal contest, and the Poland-Switzerland game determined who placed fifth. The loser of the latter game (Switzerland) was relegated, just as they would have been had the brawl not occurred.
Took place from March 15 to 21 in Rouen France. Two groups of four played round robins, the top two and bottom two from the respective groups met up in two final round robins to determine placement. Teams did not replay opponents they were grouped with previously, their scores were carried forward to the final rounds.