Maurice Richard Was The Best Hockey Player in History
by Bill Resi
Joseph Henri Maurice "Rocket" Richard, Sr. -- was the best hockey player in the history of the sport. There are few times that a professional athlete also becomes a regional hero and, eventually, a national hero in the truest sense of the word. However, Quebec's own Maurice "Rocket" Richard fits all of these conditions.
When he was younger, he made multiple attempts to serve in the Canadian military, first in combat service and later as a machinist. All of these attempts were turned down, reportedly due to a lack of technical experience and even injuries sustained in junior hockey.
However, he soon found another way to serve his nation. Now, it was not with boots on the ground. Instead, he served the nation with skates on the ice. Maurice Richard broke into the National Hockey League in the darkest days of World War II.
In 1942, his first season with the Montreal Canadiens, it appeared as though the Axis powers were going to win the war. Nevertheless, Richard went on to score five goals and six assists in his first year with the team that he would be with for the rest of his career. In the next season he would win his first of eight Stanley Cup victories. At a time when things looked very bleak for the World, Maurice Richard was giving the people of Quebec something else to think about besides those serving overseas. His victories continued well into peace time.
When Richard retired in 1960, his name had been engraved onto Lord Stanley's Mug every year since 1956, making five consecutive Stanley cup victories. In 1965, he had his name added once again post retirement, now for being the assistant to the team's President.
Richard was awarded the Hart Trophy in 1947 and the Lou Marsh Trophy in 1957, and retired with 544 goals and 421 assists, having played in 978 games. When he died in 2000, his body was laid in state at the Molson Center and over 100,000 people paid their respects to him.