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Gretzky continues to treasure trophy from Richard

Gift 'means so much' to NHL's all-time leading scorer 20 years after Canadiens icon's death

by Mike Zeisberger @Zeisberger / NHL.com Staff Writer

Wayne Gretzky, one of the most decorated players in NHL history, keeps one trophy in his California home.

It's one he didn't even win. It was a gift from Maurice "Rocket" Richard, one Gretzky has cherished for more than two decades.

"It's a replica of the Maurice Richard Trophy that he had made up for me and personally presented to me," he said. "I'll never forget it.

"It means so much. It always has and it always will."

 

[RELATED: Richard inspiring nearly 20 years after his deathRocket Richard left legacy like no other]

 

Such is the respect and admiration Gretzky has for the legacy of Richard, the Hall of Fame forward for the Montreal Canadiens who died 20 years ago this week.

Gretzky's trophy room would be clogged if he chose it to be. The League's all-time leader in goals (894), assists (1,963) and points (2,857) was voted the Hart Trophy winner nine times as the NHL's most valuable player, won the Art Ross Trophy 10 times for most points in a season, was voted the Conn Smythe Trophy winner twice as Stanley Cup Playoff MVP and won the Lester B. Pearson Award (now called the Ted Lindsay Award) five times as most outstanding player as judged by his peers. He also won the Stanley Cup four times during his illustrious career.

"Don't get me wrong, I'm very proud of my accomplishments," he said. "At the same time, my kids know who I am, they know what I accomplished, but I wanted to make my home my home. This was the one trophy where I said, 'This has to go in my house.' It's the only trophy I have in my house. Everything else is not there."

The Rocket Richard Trophy is awarded annually to the leading goal-scorer in the NHL. It was donated by the Canadiens in 1998-99, Gretzky's final season in the League.

Gretzky, then with the New York Rangers, was preparing for a game at Montreal that season when he was told by a trainer that Richard was waiting to speak with him outside the dressing room. He vividly remembers the conversation.

"The Rocket told me, 'You know, Wayne, you're never going to win this trophy.' At that point I had something like seven goals on the year so I said, 'Yeah, you're probably right.' But he said, 'You're never going to win this trophy, but you should have one for all the goals you scored.' I remember thinking, 'This is so cool.'"

It is a moment Gretzky will never forget. And with 20 years having passed since Richard's death May 27, 2000, he embraces it even more.

"I've got a great photo of The Rocket and I with the trophy," he said. "Like I said, it's the only trophy I have in my house. the one he gave me, so I feel pretty honored that he was kind enough to come down and give it to me."

Richard scored 544 goals in 978 games during an 18-season career with the Canadiens from 1942-60 and was the first player in NHL history to score 50 in 50 games, in 1944-45. Gretzky accomplished the feat three times, including an all-time best 50 in 39 for the Edmonton Oilers in 1981-82, the season he scored an NHL-record 92 goals.

"He definitely was a pioneer," Gretzky said of Richard. "He really became a symbol of Canadians and Canadian hockey. Not just the Montreal Canadiens. He was a guy who played with fire and drive and wanted to win each and every night.

"I feel very lucky that I got to know him."

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