He was born in Montreal, Quebec, Canada and played for the Montreal Canadiens from 1942 to 1960.
Maurice Richard was the quintessential Montreal hero in his time. He pulled off a five-goal game after a day spent moving house - including the piano - in 1944, and scored the series-winning goal of the 1952 Stanley Cup semifinals as blood dripped down his face from an earlier injury. In March 1955, Richard punched a linesman in a dispute during a game. NHL President Clarence Campbell suspended him for the rest of the season, wrecking the Canadiens' chances in the playoffs. When Campbell showed up for the hockey game the following night, the fans erupted into the street in the worst riot in Canadian sports history. This incident has been referred in history as The Richard Riot. The Canadiens indeed failed to win the Cup that year.
Richard's career began and ended before the era of huge salaries for sports figures. The largest yearly salary he ever made was $25,000. His jersey number 9 was retired on October 6, 1960 by the Canadiens, less than a month after he announced his retirement. His brother Henri "The Pocket Rocket" Richard joined him with the Canadiens in 1955 and would go on to win 11 Stanley Cups with the team, an NHL record.
Richard's role as a French Canadian icon was epitomized in the short story Le chandail de hockey ("The Hockey Sweater") by Roch Carrier. It also helped transcend Maurice Richard's legend through several generations. In this story, the main character purchases a must-have Maurice Richard hockey sweater with a mail-in order form from Toronto-based "Mr. Eaton". But when he receives a sweater from the Canadiens' historical adversary the Toronto Maple Leafs, he is ridiculed, and even ostracised, by his schoolmates for attempting to impose his "way of things" because of his hockey jersey. An excerpt of this short story is reprinted on the new Canadian 5$ bill.
Although Richard was often perceived as a pre-Quiet Revolution hero excelling in an anglophone world, he insisted throughout his life that he was an apolitical character playing hockey for the love of the sport.
In 1999, the Maurice 'Rocket' Richard Trophy was donated by the Montreal Canadiens hockey club to the NHL to be awarded annually to the goal-scoring leader during the regular season.
Although long retired by the time of his death in 2000, while his body lay in state at the Montreal Canadiens' Molson Centre an estimated 115 000 people of all ages paid their respects and his state funeral was attended by throngs lining the streets. A minor league hockey team is also named after him, the Rocket de Montreal (in 2003-04 this team moved to Prince Edward Island).
On June 27, 2001, the Canadian government unveiled a monument in Jacques-Cartier Park, in Hull, Quebec honouring Maurice Richard. He has been inducted into Canada's Walk of Fame.
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