Maurice “Rocket” Richard
Maurice “Rocket” Richard was one of the great early players in NHL history. He was a goal scoring machine that no one could stop.
The NHL had some humble beginnings with only a few clubs existing. One of the original six was the Montreal Canadiens and one of their first great players in league history was Maurice Richard.
Richard was born into a large family in Montreal, Quebec. He was the oldest of eight children and when the Great Depression hit the Richard family struggled a lot.
It wasn’t until the age of 14 that Richard started playing hockey. During his childhood he also played baseball and was a boxer but Richard fell in love with hockey. He even used pseudonyms so that he could play on multiple teams.
Early NHL Career
Richard’s call up to the NHL is quite interesting. After playing for a minor league affiliate, he earned a tryout with the Canadiens because the club was lacking francophone players. He would then make his debut in the 1942-43 season.
It wasn’t a long rookie year for him. He would only appear in 16 games due to a broken leg. Some wondered if he was too soft to play in the NHL.
The 1943-44 season was much better for Richard. He appeared in 46 of the teams 50 games and racked up 32 goals and 22 assists. He switched positions from left to right wing and became linemates with Toe Blake and Elmer Lach that season. Montreal would go on to win a Stanley Cup, the first of many for the “Habs.”
Accolades & Achievements
One of Richard’s best performances came in the 1944-45 season. Richard scored 50 goals (and became the first player ever to do so) and tallied 73 points on the season. As Richard got closer to 50 goals opposing players started attacking Richard. It wasn’t until the 1960-61 season that another player would score 50 goals.
As Richard’s career continued to progress, he continued to break records. After his performance in the 1952-53 season, he became the first player to score 20 goals in in his first ten seasons. This was also the season that he would score his 325th goal, and thus became the All-Time scoring leader.
Later in his career, Richard would be named captain of the Canadiens. In the 1956-57 season, he scored 33 goals and 29 assists. Montreal would win their second straight Stanley Cup. The next season, he would score his 500th goal and became the first player ever to do so.
Richard would lead Montreal to 8 total Stanley Cups (five consecutive) throughout his career. He also ended up playing in 13 All-Star games. His No.9 was retired by the Canadiens in 1960 and he was inducted to the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1961. The Hockey Hall of Fame actually waived its five year waiting period to induct him. in 1999 the NHL also announced the Maurice “Rocket” Richard Trophy which is given out to the leading scorer in the NHL. It was first won by Teemu Selanne.
Richard earned his name due to his ability to charge towards the opposing team’s net. It also described how fast and powerful of a player he was. Teammates would say that he would take off and that nobody could stop him.
Richard ended up dying in 2000 due to abdominal cancer. He became the first non-politician honored by the province of Quebec with a state funeral. He was one of the great early goal scorers in NHL history and his legacy will live in history books for eternity.
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