Maurice “Rocket” Richard was before my time, at least in the sense of me taking any interest in hockey. He played from 1942 to 1960 – all 18 seasons for the Montreal Canadiens.
At 5’10” and 170 pounds, he wasn’t big physically, but he was a phenomenon:
- A top scorer – he scored 30 or more goals in nine seasons and 40 or more in five
- First NHL player to score 50 goals in a single season – a feat he accomplished in just 50 games – and the first to score 500 career goals
- Set an NHL record that held for 30 years, by scoring 8 points in a single game
- Named to 14 straight All-Star teams
When he left the ice for the last time, Maurice Richard did so as the NHL’s all-time scoring leader, with 544 goals and 965 points to his credit in regular season play. In the playoffs, he tallied 82 markers, amassing more goals than any player preceding him. – Our History
Did he work and play nicely with others? In the context of the times, it appears so.
Opponents assigned to shadow Richard found that they had a choice to make if they wanted to counter the game’s greatest offensive force. They could keep their efforts within the rules and get burned most of the time, or they could use prohibited tactics to try to slow down the superstar. Neither approach yielded the desired results on a regular basis
Richard didn’t go out of his way to look for trouble and rarely took issue with men who played a tough but clean checking game. Those who chose more brutal tactics soon found out that Richard was willing to retaliate in kind, more than able to handle himself in the heavy going. – Our History
From this distance in time, his popularity seems to me to have been tied up with Quebec culture and politics in a way that’s likely hard for a Westerner to truly get. For a better appreciation of the complexities of the day and his popularity, read more here about the Richard Riot.
The hockey world went into mourning upon hearing of Richard’s death in 2000, as thousands filed past his casket to pay their last respects. His nationally broadcast state funeral was the first ever accorded a Canadian athlete. – Our History