This past Friday, October 19, marked the 50th anniversary of Maurice ‘Rocket’ Richard becoming the first player to score 500 career goals in the NHL. His legacy is remembered by the entire league 50 years later, including on the Dallas Stars roster in 2007.
“I never saw him play but I heard so many stories about him,” said defenseman Stephane Robidas
. “It always comes back to the Rocket when people talk about hockey in Montreal and Quebec. He was a great ambassador for hockey, especially among the French Canadians. My grandfather always talked about him and he was everyone’s idol back in his days. He was huge and people still talk about him today.”
Mike Modano is famous for wearing the No. 9 here in Dallas and there have been many to don the famous jersey number, but Richard was the first to give it a special bond with the fans.
“(The number 9) was biggest one you could have when we were growing up,” said Mike Ribeiro
, who grew up in Montreal. “The number 9 was the one to wear. Rocket was ‘the Rocket’ – you see movies now made about him and I heard a lot about him growing up. One of the first books I read when I was a kid was a Maurice Richard book. He a legend up in Montreal and people will always remember him.”
The stories of the famous Richard are still being told from generation to generation in Quebec.
“I heard so many stories from my father and my grandfather and sometime they were so hard to believe,” said Philippe Boucher. “He was at the forefront of society in Quebec. He was an icon for the entire city of Montreal. Maybe Guy Lafleur comes close but Richard is ‘the Man.’ He was the face of Montreal and he means so much to the people, even today.”
|Maurice "Rocket" Richard, of the Montreal Canadiens, is shown in action on Dec. 14, 1954. (AP Photo) |
When people think of the biggest icons in the history of sports, names like Michael Jordan, Wayne Gretzky, Muhammad Ali, Hank Aaron and Babe Ruth come to mind, but in Montreal, it would be hard to find anyone that is more revered that Maurice Richard.
“It’s hard to say how big he really is,” said Ribeiro. “You could compare him to Babe Ruth in a lot of ways. It was a smaller city but he had the same impact that Babe had with the records he set and the bond he had with the city. Everyone in the hockey world knows the Rocket.”
“The way he played the game was a big thing,” added Robidas. “He played the game the right way and carried himself well. The difference between Gretzky and the Rocket is that Rocket was French Canadian, and that is really big for the people of Quebec. He represents a lot for the French community and he is revered there.”
“That would be a good way to put it,” said Boucher. “I think Babe Ruth, world-wide, is a lot bigger, but for the people of Quebec, Rocket was just as big or even bigger.
“I don’t think anyone could ever approach what Maurice Richard meant to that entire city and community. It’s amazing, actually, how big he really was and how important he was to everyone. You still hear the stories today back home.”
Richard finished with 544 career goals. While he was passed by Gretzky, Brett Hull and some others, he will always be knows as the “King of Scorers,” especially in Montreal.
“There have been a lot of great players that have played for the Montreal Canadiens but he’s still ‘the guy’ for that organization,” said Robidas. “If you ask any of the young kids back home today, they all know the stories of him. It’s just like Babe Ruth – none of us got to see him play but we all know the legend.”
“The Rocket was the original 500-goal scorer and he set the milestone,” said Stars Head Coach Dave Tippett. “He was a legend and will always be one of the special players to ever play our game.”