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Maurice Richard: Birth of a legend

Maurice Richard wasn't an outstanding stickhandler. And he wasn't the finest skater the NHL has produced. But he became one of the best players in history through sheer force of will. Driven by desire so fierce his glare unhinged rival goaltenders, the Montreal Canadiens star set numerous records. "The Rocket" became a cultural icon among Quebecers, who so revered Richard that they started a riot when "Saint Maurice" was suspended from the league.

Maurice Richard was always a man with goals. Not just the thrilling ones where the puck hits the net, but goals he set for himself. Like excelling in junior hockey despite myriad injuries. Like training to become a machinist when his injuries kept him from becoming a soldier. And making the most of his one big break: a tryout for the NHL's Montreal Canadiens.

From that point on, goals of the other type came fast and furious: 50 in a season, dozens more en route to winning eight Stanley Cups. Within a decade, Richard had scored more goals than anyone in NHL history. This CBC Television clip traces Maurice Richard's development, from his childhood in Montreal to becoming the NHL's career goals leader in 1952. 
• Joseph-Henri-Maurice Richard was born on Aug. 4, 1921, the eldest of eight children. He grew up in the working-class Bordeaux section of Montreal near Ville Saint-Laurent during the Great Depression. Richard played hockey with the Verdun Maple Leafs and Parc Lafontaine teams, as well as the Montreal Royals. To help support his family, Richard dropped out of school at age 16 to work in a CPR machine shop.

• At the outbreak of the Second World War, Richard was desperate to serve his country. He was rejected from military service three times -- twice as a soldier (too many unhealed junior hockey injuries) and once as a machinist (not enough formal training). He began machinist training at the Montreal Technical School, but the war ended before he could complete the four-year certification process.

• The war presented other opportunities, however. Professional hockey needed athletes who weren't in the military. He signed with the Montreal Senior Canadiens farm team for the 1940-41 season, and in September 1942 he joined the main Montreal Canadiens team.
• Richard wasn't big -- five foot ten (1.55 metres), ranging between 170-195 pounds (77-88 kilograms) -- and he shot left-handed, even though he played right wing. His bursts of speed impressed his teammates, including veteran Raymond Getliffe, who is credited with nicknaming Richard "the Rocket."

• A few days after joining the Canadiens, on Sept. 17, 1942, Maurice Richard married Lucille Norchet. (They would have seven children.)
• Richard scored his first goal on Nov. 8, 1942. But his rookie season was cut short on Dec. 27, when he broke his ankle after just 16 games.
• The following year, Richard returned with a vengeance. He switched from number 15 to number 9 -- the birth weight of his daughter Huguette. That season, he scored 32 goals in 46 games.
Medium: Television
Program: CBC Television Special
Production Date: Oct. 25, 1960
Guest(s): Maurice Richard
Duration: 5:05
Photo: Hockey Hall of Fame
Photo: CP Picture Archive/AP Photo

Last updated: May 16, 2012

Page consulted on December 6, 2013

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