Maurice Richard was born on August 4, 1921, in Montreal, Canada. As a right winger for the Montreal Canadiens, the "Rocket" became the first player in the National Hockey League to score 50 goals in a season. Richard won eight Stanley Cup titles in his 18-year NHL career, retiring in 1960 with a record 544 goals. He was honored with a state funeral after his death in Montreal on May 27, 2000.
Joseph Henri Maurice Richard was born on August 4, 1921, in Montreal, Quebec, Canada. Although he trained as a machinist at Montreal Technical School, Richard was focused on a career in the National Hockey League. After stints with the minor league Verdun Maple Leafs and the Montreal Royals, he earned his shot with the Montreal Canadiens of the NHL in 1942.
Richard became known as the "Rocket" early in his career for his impressive speed, but his rookie season ended after just 16 games due to a broken ankle, and many wondered whether he was durable enough to survive in the rough-and-tumble NHL.
The right winger soon proved more than capable of handling the lumps at hockey’s top level. Teaming with Elmer Lach and Hector "Toe" Blake on the famed "Punch Line," Richard scored 23 goals in the final 18 games of his sophomore season, and added another 12 in the playoffs to help the Canadiens win the 1944 Stanley Cup.
The Rocket became the first player to score 50 goals in a season in 1944-45. The following year, he won his only Hart Trophy as the league's MVP while leading the Canadiens to their second Stanley Cup in three years.
Despite measuring a modest 5'10" and 170 pounds, Richard was an intimidating presence with his intense black eyes and temper. Any lingering doubts about his toughness were eradicated with his legendary performance in Game 7 of the 1952 Stanley Cup semifinals, in which he was knocked unconscious but returned to score the series-winning goal.
However, it was his temper that led to one of the most notorious incidents in NHL history. After he punched a linesman during a fight near the end of the 1954-55 season, Richard was suspended for the duration of the playoffs by NHL President Clarence Campbell. A few days later, angry Canadiens fans assaulted Campbell at a game before spilling into the street in what was called the "Richard Riot." Dismayed, the hockey star pleaded with fans to remain calm over the airwaves the following day, and there was no more violence.
Although he was slowed by injuries late in his career, Richard primarily enjoyed the taste of victory as the Canadiens won the Stanley Cup in every year from 1956 through 1960. He retired before the start of the 1960-61 season with 544 career goals, easily an NHL record at the time. In addition, he led the league in goals five times, was selected to 14 consecutive All-Star teams and owned the record of six overtime playoff goals.
Post-Playing Career and Legacy
Richard was elected to the Hockey Hall of Fame and had his No. 9 retired by the Canadiens in 1961.
In 1967, the hockey great was inducted into the grade of Officer in the Order of Canada. He was promoted to Companion of the Order in 1998, the same year the NHL created an award in his name to be annually presented to the league’s top goal scorer.
Richard died of abdominal cancer on May 27, 2000, in Montreal, Canada. A national hero, he was the first Canadian athlete to be honored with a state funeral.
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