Saturday, October 28, 2000
Updated: November 2, 8:39 PM ET
Rocket shattered scoring records
By Fred W. Kiger
Special to ESPN.com
March 18, 1945 - It was the Montreal Canadiens' 50th - and final - game of the season and their star right wing, Maurice Richard, needed a goal to become the first NHL player to score 50 goals in a season.
There was less than three minutes left in the game in Boston and "The Rocket" still was stuck on 49. But with 2:15 remaining, the fiery Richard took a pass from Elmer Lach and scored to achieve the milestone.
Richard's goal tied the game 2-2 and Montreal went on to win 4-2, with Richard setting up the winning goal by Toe Blake 57 seconds after his score.
It will be 36 seasons until another player (Mike Bossy of the New York Islanders) will score 50 goals in the season's first 50 games.
Odds 'n' Ends
Richard signed with Montreal as a free agent on Oct. 29, 1942. His two-year deal was for $5,000 a season with a $1,000 signing bonus.
Richard scored his first goal on Nov. 8, 1942 in a 10-4 victory over the New York Rangers at the Forum. It would be 10 years later to the day when he would score his 325th goal, making him the all-time career goal-scoring leader.
After Richard scored all of the Canadiens' goals in their 5-1 victory over Toronto in the 1944 playoffs, Richard was not only named the first star of the game in the Forum, but the second and third stars as well.
Richard rarely slept a complete night before a game. He would catch a couple hours of rest during the afternoon.
After Richard scored the winning goal in Game 7 of the 1952 semifinal playoffs against the Bruins, Montreal club president Donat Raymond went to congratulate him in the locker room. There, a bloody Richard, suffering from a probable concussion after being knocked unconscious with a high stick, went into convulsions. He had to be restrained by teammates until he could be given injections to calm him.
When Richard's suspension for striking a linesman forced him to miss the last three games of the 1955 regular season, teammate "Boom-Boom" Geoffrion won the league's scoring title by one point, 75-74. Richard's popularity was so great that Geoffrion received death threats from Canadien fans.
When Richard retired in 1960, Montreal coach Toe Blake was asked how he would replace No. 9. Blake shot back, "With two men."
Richard was the all-time leader in goals with 544 goals when he retired. Going into the 2000-2001 season, he was 19th.
In the late 1960s, Richard and other retired players formed a team and performed for charity.
In the struggle to find peace with his absence from hockey, Richard opened and closed a tavern called "#9," sold heating oil door-to-door, was a salesman for a local car dealership and started a company that sold fishing equipment.
In 1972 Richard was named the first coach of the Quebec Nordiques of the WHA. The stint lasted only two games, when Richard stepped down, saying that he missed his family.
In January 1974 Maurice was invited back to the Forum to take part in Henri Richard Night. "The Rocket" was embarrassed for his younger brother when the crowd gave him the longest and loudest ovation.
Richard believed that the NHL should have two separate record categories - one for the six-team league that played a 50-game schedule and the other for, as he put it, the current "watered down" version of the NHL.
His wife Lucille died in 1994 after 51 years of marriage. The Richards had seven children.
To deal with the loss of Lucille, Richard took on a grueling schedule of refereeing on the old-timers circuit. During the winter of 1994-95 he called 55 games, 29 in a 30-day stretch.
On March 11, 1996, before Montreal's final game in the Forum, Richard received a standing ovation that brought tears to his eyes as well as to many of the other former Canadiens who had been introduced on the ice.
For the league award to honor the top goal-scorer each season, the NHL Board of Governors on June 25, 1998 voted to name the trophy for Maurice Richard. The trophy has nine levels to commemorate Richard's jersey number and its red-white-blue color scheme symbolizes the team colors of the Canadiens.
At Richard's wake in the Molson Center on May 30, 2000, more than 100,000 came to honor him.