The Maurice Richard reference article from the English Wikipedia on 24-Jul-2004
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Maurice Richard

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Maurice Richard in his Canadiens uniformEnlarge

Maurice Richard in his Canadiens uniform

Joseph Henri Maurice Richard (August 4, 1921 - May 27, 2000), better known as Maurice "the Rocket" Richard, was a professional ice hockey player.

He was born in Montreal, Quebec, Canada, the eldest of eight siblings, and played for the Montreal Canadiens from 1942 to 1960.

Richard (pronounced ri-SHAR or ree-SHAR) was the first to score 50 goals in one season (the 1944-45 NHL season), doing so in 50 games and the first to score 500 goals in a career. "50 goals in 50 games" continues to be a marker of scoring excellence to this day, and few players have surpassed that mark. Richard also played on eight Stanley Cup teams in Montreal, and was elected eight times to the first all-star team and six times to the second all-star team, and played in every National Hockey League All-Star Game from 1947 to 1959. In his career, he scored 544 goals, amassed 421 assists for a total of 965 points in 978 games. He formed the famous "Punch Line" with Elmer Lach as center and Hector 'Toe' Blake playing left-wing.

Richard was the quintessential Montreal hero. He pulled off a five-goal game after a day spent moving house - including the piano - in 1944, and scored the series-winning goal of the 1952 Stanley Cup semifinals as blood dripped down his face from an earlier injury. Richard's role as a French Canadian icon was epitomized in the short story Le chandail de hockey ("The Hockey Sweater") by Roch Carrier. It also helped transcend his legend through several generations. In this story, the main character purchases a must-have Richard hockey sweater with a mail-in order form from Toronto-based "Mr. Eaton". But when he receives a sweater from the Canadiens' historical adversary the Toronto Maple Leafs, he is ridiculed, and even ostracised, by his schoolmates for attempting to impose his "way of things" because of his jersey. An excerpt of this short story is reprinted on the new Canadian $5 bill.

Although Richard was often perceived as a pre-Quiet Revolution hero excelling in an anglophone world, he always insisted that he was an apolitical character playing hockey for the love of the sport.

Richard's career began and ended before the era of huge salaries. The largest yearly salary he ever made was $25,000. His jersey #9 was retired on October 6, 1960 by the Canadiens, less than a month after he announced his retirement. His brother Henri "The Pocket Rocket" Richard joined him with the Canadiens in 1955 and would go on to win 11 Stanley Cups with the team, an NHL record.

The Richard Riot

As a physical force on the ice, it was common for Richard to be antagonized outside of Montreal. Teams would reportedly send one or two players with the purpose of annoying him, believing that the penalties that would eventually be called against these players would be worth their while. One such incident would spark one of the worst hockey-related incidents in history.

On March 13, 1955, Richard was given a match penalty for deliberately injuring Hal Laycoe in a game against the Boston Bruins. A formal inquiry took place after which NHL president Clarence Campbell suspended Richard for the remainder of the season, a move considered by many in Montreal to be unjust and too severe. This decision came when the Rocket was leading the NHL in scoring and the Canadiens were battling for first place. Public outrage soon poured in, with many Montrealers blaming Campbell. Local radio call-in shows became so inundated with calls that radio stations were begging people not to call in. For his part, Campbell did not budge, and announced that he would be attending the Habs' next home game against the Detroit Red Wings in four days. Security was increased at the game, with twice as many officers guarding the Montreal Forum compared to other games.

The game itself saw many protesters with signs that read "A bas Campbell" or "Vive Richard", with much of the crowd noice directed at Campbell, and few paying attention to the game or to the fact that Richard had also taken a seat at the game. As Montreal coach Dick Irvin pointed out, "the people didn't care if we got licked 100-1 that night". After the first period, the Red Wings had taken a 4-1 lead. Throughout the game, outraged Habs fans pelted Campbell with eggs, vegetables, and various debris, with more being thrown at him each time the Red Wings scored. The continuous pelting of various objects stopped when a tear gas bomb had set off outside the Forum. All this time, Richard had deplored the incident, calling it a disgrace. At the same time, the crowd became so unruly the Forum had to be evacuated, and the game forfeited to the Red Wings. Said of Detroit coach Jack Adams after the game: "I blame [the media] for what's happened. You've turned Richard into an idol, a man whose suspension can turn hockey fans into shrieking idiots... Richard makes me ashamed to be connected with this game."

The tear gas bomb had also altered the mood of the incident, turning it into a destructive and violent one. A riot ensued outside the Forum, causing $500,000 in damage, some from people who did not know who Maurice Richard was, nor why the riot started. Various parts of the forum was destroyed, including an office of a professional wrestling promoter who employed Richard during the off-season to referee in wrestling matches. The riot continued until well into the night, with Montreal police arresting people by the truckload. Local radio stations, which carried live coverage of the riot for over seven hours, had to be forced off the air. The riot was eventually over at 3am, and left Montreal's Rue Ste-Catherine in a big mess.

The mood in Montreal on March 18 was a somber one. Regarding the actions of the night before, Montreal Gazette columnist Dink Carroll summed it up best: "I was ashamed of my city." Reporters lined up to see both Campbell and Richard that day. Richard was reluctant to make a statement, fearing that it could start another riot. Eventually, Richard did make a statement:

Because I always try so hard to win and had my troubles in Boston, I was suspended. At playoff time it hurts not be in the game with the boys. However, I want to do what is good for the people of Montreal and the team. So that no further harm will be done, I would like to ask everyone to get behind the team and to help the boys win from the [New York Rangers] and Detroit. I will take my punishment and come back next year to help the club and the younger players to win the Cup.

His words would prove prophetic, as the Habs would lose the Cup final to Detroit in seven games, but would win the Cup in the year after - and the four years after that.

The Rocket Richard Trophy

In 1999, the Maurice 'Rocket' Richard Trophy was donated by the Montreal Canadiens hockey club to the NHL to be awarded annually to the goal-scoring leader during the regular season.

Although long retired by the time of his death in 2000, while his body lay in state at the Montreal Canadiens' Molson Centre an estimated 115,000 people of all ages paid their respects. He was given a state funeral that was broadcast across Canada, the first time such an honour was accorded an athlete. Among the people in attendance were teammates and opponents, such as Gordie Howe and Jean Beliveau, as well as various politicians (Jean Chretien, Lucien Bouchard) and current team captain Saku Koivu.

He was interred in the Cimetière Notre-Dame-des-Neiges in Montreal, Quebec.

A junior hockey team is also named after him, the Rocket de Montreal, playing out of the Maurice Richard Arena (in 2003-04 this team moved to Prince Edward Island). On June 27, 2001, the Canadian government unveiled a monument in Jacques-Cartier Park, in Hull, Quebec honouring Maurice Richard. He has been inducted into Canada's Walk of Fame.

Richard was married to Lucille Norchet from September 17, 1942 until her death on July 18, 1994. They had 7 children.

Career Statistics

Season Team League Regular Season Playoffs
GP G A Pts PIM GP G A Pts PIM
1942-43 Montreal Canadiens NHL 16 5 6 11 4 -- -- -- -- --
1943-44 Montreal Canadiens NHL 46 32 22 54 45 9 12 5 17 10
1944-45 Montreal Canadiens NHL 50 50 23 73 46 6 6 2 8 10
1945-46 Montreal Canadiens NHL 50 27 21 48 50 9 7 4 11 15
1946-47 Montreal Canadiens NHL 60 45 26 71 69 10 6 5 11 44
1947-48 Montreal Canadiens NHL 53 28 25 53 89 -- -- -- -- --
1948-49 Montreal Canadiens NHL 59 20 18 38 110 7 2 1 3 14
1949-50 Montreal Canadiens NHL 70 43 22 65 114 5 1 1 2 6
1950-51 Montreal Canadiens NHL 65 42 24 66 97 11 9 4 13 13
1951-52 Montreal Canadiens NHL 48 27 17 44 44 11 4 2 6 6
1952-53 Montreal Canadiens NHL 70 28 33 61 112 12 7 1 8 2
1953-54 Montreal Canadiens NHL 70 37 30 67 112 11 3 0 3 22
1954-55 Montreal Canadiens NHL 67 38 36 74 125 -- -- -- -- --
1955-56 Montreal Canadiens NHL 70 38 33 71 89 10 5 9 14 24
1956-57 Montreal Canadiens NHL 63 33 29 62 74 10 8 3 11 8
1957-58 Montreal Canadiens NHL 28 15 19 34 28 10 11 4 15 10
1958-59 Montreal Canadiens NHL 42 17 21 38 27 4 0 0 0 2
1959-60 Montreal Canadiens NHL 51 19 16 35 50 8 1 3 4 2

See also