MONTREAL - Fifty years ago Friday, Maurice (Rocket) Richard got his 500th career goal, setting a benchmark for goal-scorers that endures even if it has since been matched by 38 other players.
On Oct. 19, 1957, a 36-year-old Richard took a pass from linemate Jean Beliveau during a power play and fired in No. 500 in a 3-1 victory over the Chicago Blackhawks at the old Montreal Forum, drawing a long ovation from the 14,000-plus spectators.
Richard had scored his 498th and 499th two nights earlier against Toronto. When Chicago's Ian Cushenan was sent off for holding at 14:42 of the first period, reports said the crowd could sense the milestone goal was coming. And it did, at 15:52.
It was one of those magic round numbers, like the 50 goals (in 50 games) that Richard was the first to accomplish in the 1944-45 season. Richard retired after the 1959-60 campaign with 544 goals.
The Canadiens plan a scoreboard tribute to Richard during their game Saturday night against Buffalo at the Bell Centre. The NHL marked the anniversary on its website this week.
"I remember that getting to 500 was pretty special," Wayne Gretzky, who scored a record 894 goals, told NHL.com. "Growing up as a kid, you see Maurice Richard got 500 and Gordie Howe got 500 and that was sort of the benchmark."
Richard, who scored his first goal in 1942, was the leader of a dynasty that won five consecutive Stanley Cups from 1956 to 1960. He died on May 27, 2000 after a battle with cancer.
Howe became the second player with 500 goals on March 14, 1963, followed by Bobby Hull on Feb. 21, 1970, Beliveau on Feb. 11, 1971 and Frank Mahovlich on March 21, 1973.
Last season, Mark Recchi and Mike Modano joined the 500-goal club.
Jeremy Roenick of the San Jose Sharks will almost certainly be next up. He has 497, while Keith Tkachuk of the St. Louis Blues is at 476. Roenick stands to be the third U.S.-born player with 500.
No matter how many times it was been done, it remains a special moment for the league's biggest stars, as quotes taken from those special nights, gathered by NHL.com, attest.
"I didn't want to get it on the road," Gretzky said when he reached the milestone on Nov. 23, 1986. "Glen (Sather) double-shifted me in the last 10 minutes.
"I told him I don't want to get it anywhere but Edmonton."
Crease-camper Dave Andreychuk told The Associated Press on March 26, 1997 that "there haven't been too many pretty goals in the 500, but it seems that pucks came to me a lot over the years and that's how I keep getting goals."
The New York Times reported that Guy Lafleur's first thought on Dec. 21, 1983 was "I'm glad it's over. I've been playing football for two weeks trying not to think about it. Now I can start playing hockey."
And Mark Messier told The Associated Press on Nov. 7, 1995 that, "I never considered myself a natural goal-scorer. I've always considered myself a playmaker and have taken pride in setting up my wingers. I guess if you hang around long enough, a few of them are going to go in."
Some 500-goal facts from the NHL:
-Three players scored No. 500 into empty nets - Mike Bossy, Gretzky and Jari Kurri.
-Seven got their 500th to complete hat-tricks - Beliveau, Gretzky, Mario Lemieux, Messier, Brett Hull, Jaromir Jagr and Mats Sundin.
-Goaltending great Patrick Roy allowed three 500th goals, by Steve Yzerman, Joe Mullen and Brendan Shanahan.
-13 were scored on the power play and two were short-handed, by Howe and Sundin. Sundin's was the only one scored in overtime.
-26 of the 39 scored their 500th goals at home, while Joe Sakic of the Colorado Avalanche scored his in his hometown, Vancouver.
-14 players scored all 500 with the same franchise, including Richard, Howe, Bobby Hull, Beliveau, Stan Makita, Lafleur, Bossy, Gilbert Perreault, Gretzky, Bryan Trottier, Lemieux, Yzerman, Sakic and Modano.
-Some careers ended just short of 500, including Glenn Anderson (498), Jean Ratelle (491) and Norm Ullman (490).