Video: Dickie Moore was high-scoring wing, fierce competitor
He came by the nickname "Digging Dickie" honestly, his tremendous work in the corners done with disregard for the peril that often awaited him. And it was this bulldog tenacity that made Moore one of the unsung superstars of his day, a brilliant two-way forward who was a key member of six Stanley Cup champions during his time in Montreal (1951-63) and winner of the Art Ross Trophy in 1957-58 and 1958-59 as the NHL's leading scorer.
It's almost a miracle that Moore made it to the NHL, no less to the Hall of Fame in 1974. Growing up in the working-class north end of Montreal, he broke his leg when he was struck by a car. He shattered his other leg as a boy, and nearly lost a lip to a dog bite. But once Moore got back up, which he never failed to do, he won consecutive Memorial Cup championships, first in 1949 with the Montreal Royals, then the following year with the Junior Canadiens.
Moore seemingly forever was on the mend from injuries that would have gravely discouraged others but usually were little more than inconveniences for him. His list of injuries included a twice-broken collarbone, shredded cartilage in both knees and shoulders that saw the scalpel more than once.
Games: 719 | Goals: 261 | Assists: 347 | Points: 608
Born Jan. 6, 1931, the youngest of a family of nine boys and one girl, Moore was taught to skate by his sister, Dolly. He would go on to forge a career that would see him win six Stanley Cup titles, including the Canadiens' unprecedented five straight from 1956-60, and consecutive Art Ross trophies.
Maurice "Rocket" Richard called Moore the greatest left wing he played with, while legendary center Jean Beliveau (an earlier Moore linemate with right wing Bernie Geoffrion) valued him as a take-no-prisoners skater both as an opponent and a teammate, and cherished him as the dearest friend he ever had.
"He can't skate much and I don't know whether he can handle the puck," Canadiens coach Dick Irvin said in 1951 of Moore, then a rookie on his team. "But I do know he's a competitor."
That didn't begin to describe Moore. He won his first League scoring title in 1957-58 (84 points and an NHL-high 36 goals) despite playing the final three months of the season with a broken wrist encased in a cast that ran from his knuckles to his elbow.
Moore's loyalty to his team was stronger than it ever was to himself. With a splintered wrist he was still able to play, but he would do so only with the approval of his linemates and coach Toe Blake, fearing that he was hampering the Art Ross chase of his center, Henri Richard. Ultimately, Moore beat Henri Richard by four points to win the scoring title, not missing a game.
Moore's League-leading 96 points in 1958-59 represented an NHL record that stood for seven years. Twice Moore was the NHL's top scorer in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
His stubborn streak was a mile wide, and that was one of his greatest assets as a player. Moving toward the NHL, with Canadiens general manager Frank Selke having declared him the best junior player in Canada, Moore almost unthinkably held out on signing with Montreal until the Canadiens tacked a $2,000 signing bonus onto the $7,500 NHL-minimum salary he was offered.
In the spring of 1963, angered by the idea that Canadiens were working to trade him, Moore quit the game to devote himself to a construction equipment rental business he had founded in Montreal two years earlier. And he promptly had his kneecap pounded into gravel in a losing battle with a grinding wheel.
(Moore also owned three hugely popular Dairy Queen ice-cream parlors around Montreal, where kids flocked to see him, and today the equipment-rental company that bears his name, a firm he launched modestly in a tiny office, is an international giant.)
Doctors suggested that Moore have his shattered kneecap removed in 1963. The only second opinion he needed was his own; it stayed, happily for the Toronto Maple Leafs, who claimed him in the NHL Intra-League Draft in June 1964 for $20,000. Moore won a coin toss to sign for $1,000 more than coach/general manager Punch Imlach was offering.
It took Moore about a month of skating at a local rink before he dressed for the first of the 38 games he'd play for Toronto, but later in the season he fractured his tailbone and decided to quit again, moving his family back to Montreal.
"Every time Punch came to Montreal, he gave me my paycheck. It was something else," Moore said in a 1998 interview. "He kept saying, 'You'll be back.' So I healed up and Punch called me back for the playoffs."
History records that Moore scored three of his 307 career goals for Toronto - two in the 1964-65 regular season and one more in his five playoff games.
"(Toronto) sportswriter Red Burnett wrote that it was an expensive goal, so I got mad," Moore said later with a grin. "So I shot a puck just over his head into the seats during practice."
Moore retired again in the spring of 1965 but two years later he was back in the newly expanded NHL to finish his career, playing 45 games for coach Scotty Bowman's St. Louis Blues in 1967-68. Hall of Fame goaltender Glenn Hall, a teammate with the Blues, has said the competitive fires burned as hot in Moore in the twilight of his career as they had a decade and a half earlier.
From their sometimes vicious battles as junior opponents to their NHL championships together in Montreal, and then through their retirement years in business, on the banquet circuit and as stately Canadiens ambassadors, Moore and Beliveau were as close as brothers.
"Dickie and I were running at each other all the time (in junior)," Beliveau wrote in his autobiography "Jean Beliveau: My Life in Hockey." "The high-sticking, cross-checking, elbowing and roughing was relentless and I'm not ashamed to admit that on certain occasions, Dickie wore me down. …
"He was a wild man who on more than one occasion went up into the stands to confront his long-distance tormentors. You couldn't find a better teammate, though, as I would discover a few years later."
Their bond would be unbreakable. Moore was critically hurt in a 2006 car accident, sustaining broken ribs, spinal and neck injuries, internal bleeding and a damaged knee. Beliveau was a constant companion during his hospitalization and rehabilitation, their unshakable friendship having taken root when they were teammates.
So it was that Moore almost dared Montreal hospital security to pull him from Beliveau's bedside in 2010 following the latter's stroke. Finally it was Beliveau's wife, Élise, who gently nudged him out the door when he seemed ready to camp out.
Moore was devastated by Beliveau's death on Dec. 2, 2014.
His insides torn out, Moore was still heartbroken, even numb, a week after Beliveau's death when he stood to deliver his eulogy:
"Elise, Jean was so lucky to have you on his team beside him and supporting him through all the years," he said. "Me, I was lucky. Lucky to have been with Jean for many glorious years with the Canadiens. Lucky to share many amazing moments together. Lucky to have him as a friend. What would you rather be, good or lucky? I was lucky. He was good."
Moore always seemed to be in soaring spirits, no matter his physical pain or the ache in his heart. He had a smile for those who dropped into his equipment-rental headquarters, sitting to chat, sign autographs and pose for photos.
Until cancer claimed him on Dec. 19, 2015, Moore loved a life that had dealt him many hardships, including the tragic loss of a son, Richard Jr., at age 16.
On Nov. 12, 2005, he had stood proudly at center ice of Montreal's Bell Centre and watched as his No. 12, and that of fellow Canadiens Hall of Famer Yvan Cournoyer, were pulled into the arena rafters, retired forever.
The number was one of the cornerstones of the life of "Digging Dickie" - it represented the size of his family growing up, the age when he was struck by a car in an accident that doctors foolishly suggested would keep him out of sports, and the years he would play for his beloved Canadiens.
"Today's players might make more money than I did," Moore would often say, "but I'll guarantee you they're not having as much fun."
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