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Trophy Thursday: Maurice "Rocket" Richard Trophy

Scoring 50 goals in a season puts an NHL player in contention for the goal scoring title: 'Rocket' Richard was the first player to hit the 50 mark

by Bob Condor / @NHLSeattle_ / NHLSeattle.com

For the uninitiated, Maurice "Rocket" Richard was the first NHL player to score 50 goals in a season, back in 1944-45, reaching the mark in style. He scored 50 goals in exactly 50 games. 

Unlike many NHL awards that tap hockey media members to vote for a winner, the decision for the Maurice Richard Trophy is simple. The guy with the most goals during the regular season wins. Doesn't matter if the goal scoring champ is swift and stylish or hockey's version of a power forward who finds opportunity in and around the front of the net. Scoring goals is what wins the trophy. 

Not only was Maurice Richard (pronounced "rah-shard") the initial NHL player to score 50 goals, he was the NHL's first player to score 500 career goals. He played 18 seasons for the Montreal Canadiens, participating in 13 All-Star games. He played for eight Stanley Cup winners in Montreal, including five straight Cups from 1956 to 1960-still a league record for consecutive titles. 

Perhaps more notable, Richard was an icon in French-speaking Quebec, a smaller player who was unafraid and someone you didn't want to miss each time the puck touched his stick. He was outspoken at a time when it wasn't the norm for professional athletes. His persona permeated across culture, not just hockey. When he died of abdominal cancer in 2000, Richard was the first non-politician in Quebec to receive a state funeral. 

The Canadiens retired his No. 9 jersey in 1960, his last season. A year later, the Hockey Hall of Fame waived its usual five-year waiting period to elect Richard. In 1999, Montreal donated the Maurice "Rocket" Richard Trophy to the league. Teemu Selanne of Anaheim was the first winner with 47 goals during the 1998-99 season. 

There are no tiebreakers for the Richard Trophy. Multiple players can get their names engraved on the trophy if they are tied in number of goals at season's end. In 2003-04, Jarome Iginla (Calgary), Ilya Kovalchuk (New Jersey) and Rick Nash (Columbus) all tied at 41 goals. Sidney Crosby (Pittsburgh) and Steven Stamkos (Tampa Bay) knotted for the Richard Trophy in 2009-10 when each star scored 51 goals each. Fun fact: Nash is the youngest award winner, 19 years old when he tied Iginla and Kovalchuk. 

Stamkos won the Richard Trophy for a second time in 2011-2012 with 60 goals. Crosby picked up his second Richard in 2016-2017 with 44 goals. But other than Anaheim's Corey Perry scoring a league-high 50 in 2010-11, this decade has been all about Alexander Ovechkin of the Washington Capitals. While "Ovi" won his first two Richards in 2007-08 and 2008-09, he has picked up six more nameplates as the NHL's leading goal scorer in six of the last seven seasons. In fact, his eighth goal-scoring title (matching Ovechkin's famed No. 8 jersey) surpassed legendary Chicago left winger Bobby Hull, who didn't invent the slapshot nor curve stick blade but perfected both to win the league goals title seven seasons, circa the 1960s. Hull won seven goal-scoring titles from 1959-60 through 1968-69. 

Strangely, no player from an Original Six franchise (Montreal, Toronto, Boston, Detroit, Chicago and the New York Rangers) has ever won the goal-scoring title since the Richard Trophy was introduced in 1999. Current league leader David Pastrnak, with 25 goals, might eliminate that bit of trivia. Same for Toronto's young star, Austin Matthews, during the next decade, though he will be pushed by the likes of Edmonton's dynamic duo of Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl, Colorado's Nathan MacKinnon and possibly Buffalo's Jack Eichel or, who knows, the age-defying Ovechkin. Plus, there is no ruling out Boston's Brad Marchand, who has 18 goals so far and plays with Pastrnak and all-star two-way forward Patrice Bergeron. 

Pastrnak is on pace to score 75 goals, which has not happened since Montreal donated the Richard Trophy in 1999. Ovechkin has notched the highest total with 65 goals during 2007-08 season. Ovechkin has 20 goals, which projects to 58 goals. McDavid and Draisaitl can both score in bunches. 

Two decades into the Richard Trophy, here's a list of winners, starting with the most recent: 

2019: Alexander Ovechkin, Washington Capitals: 51 goals

2018: Alexander Ovechkin, Washington Capitals: 49 goals

2017: Sidney Crosby, Pittsburgh Penguins: 44 goals

2016: Alexander Ovechkin , Washington Capitals: 50 goals

2015: Alexander Ovechkin, Washington Capitals: 53 goals

2014: Alexander Ovechkin, Washington Capitals: 51 goals

2013: Alexander Ovechkin, Washington Capitals: 32 goals

2012: Steven Stamkos, Tampa Bay Lightning: 60 goals

2011: Corey Perry, Anaheim Ducks: 50 goals

2010: Sidney Crosby, Pittsburgh Penguins: 51 goals

2010: Steven Stamkos, Tampa Bay Lightning 51 goals

2009: Alexander Ovechkin, Washington Capitals: 56 goals

2008: Alexander Ovechkin, Washington Capitals: 65 goals

2007: Vincent Lecavalier, Tampa Bay Lightning: 52 goals

2006: Jonathan Cheechoo, San Jose Sharks: 56 goals

2004: Rick Nash, Columbus: Blue Jackets: 41 goals

2004: Ilya Kovalchuk, Atlanta Thrashers: 41 goals

2004: Jarome Iginla, Calgary Flames: 41 goals

2003: Milan Hejduk, Colorado Avalanche: 50 goals

2002: Jarome Iginla, Calgary Flames: 52 goals

2001: Pavel Bure, Florida Panthers: 59 goals

2000: Pavel Bure, Florida Panthers: 58 goals

1999: Teemu Selanne, Mighty Ducks of Anaheim: 47 goals

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