Maurice Richard became the first player in league history to score 500 goals on Oct. 19, 1957.
MONTREAL – Like the first man on the moon, Maurice Richard took the game places it had never been before.
It was 50 years ago today on October 19, 1957, that “The Rocket” became the founding father of the 500 goal club, a select group of players that now boasts 38 members.
As he closed in on his landmark goal, Richard speeded up the process by scoring a pair of goals and adding two assists in a 9-3 win over Toronto only two days earlier to set the stage.
With 499 goals in the bank, Richard hit the ice for the 863rd time before a capacity crowd at the Forum buzzing with anticipation for the Canadiens' showdown with the Blackhawks.
At the 14:42 mark of the first period, Blackhawks defenseman Ian Cushenan was sent off for hooking Richard, but as the world would soon find out, nothing could slow “The Rocket” down on this night. Armed with his usual embarrassment of riches, head coach Toe Blake’s power-play unit featured no less than four future Hall-of-Famers, including Richard, Dickie Moore, Doug Harvey and Jean Beliveau.
Just over one minute into the Habs’ man-advantage, Richard hammered a one-timer off a feathered pass from Beliveau past Glen Hall for No. 500. The historic goal came 15 years after Richard’s first career goal against the Rangers on November 8, 1942.
“I remember making that pass to Maurice that night for that famous goal,” recalled Beliveau, whose own 500th goal would come in 1971. “Over the seven seasons I played with him, he never said much and often kept to himself. But that night, he leapt into my arms.
“Being a member of this exclusive club with Maurice is a true honor and a wonderful way to cap off a career,” added Beliveau. “Records are made to be broken, but I’m sure he was proud of what he accomplished.”
According to Beliveau, Richard’s many achievements also opened doors for the Canadiens of tomorrow, himself included.
“I’ve always said that Maurice scoring 50 goals in 50 games in 1945 paved the way for French Canadian players everywhere,” explained Beliveau. “I was only 13 years old at the time, but it definitely inspired me. And I’m sure that holds true to this day.”
Having also admired “The Rocket” growing up in Montreal, Moore remains honored to have played a role in Richard’s history-making goal five decades ago.
“I was happy and proud to have been on the ice with him and to have helped make it happen,” said Moore, who picked up the other assist on Richard’s goal that helped lead the Canadiens to a 3-1 win over Chicago that night. “Scoring 500 goals is still a big deal and an incredible achievement. But once “The Rocket” scored that goal all he had on his mind was No. 501.”
When Richard retired following the 1959-60 season, he had piled up 544 regular season goals and 82 more during the playoffs. Moore has his own theory on how Richard managed to score all those goals to become the game’s most prolific scorer.
“I’ll never forget what he told me one day after I mentioned that he should have passed the puck to me on a certain play since I was wide open,” recalled Moore. “He said: ‘Dickie, I play for the fans. I score goals for them because that’s what they came here to see.’ His explanation was good enough for me.” Manny Almela is a writer for canadiens.com