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Maurice Richard hangs up his skates

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.

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Two days after limbering up at training camp for his 19th NHL season, Maurice Richard decides his hockey career is over. On Sept. 15, 1960, Richard announces he's retiring from the game. "For more than two years I have thought more about [retirement] than anything else," Richard says in this CBC Radio clip. "I knew the day was coming sometime, and these last two years have been awfully difficult for me because of it."

Richard's game has suffered in the past two seasons due to injury, and at 39 he's the oldest player in the league. But he's leaving with some impressive statistics: 544 goals in regular-season play and 82 in the playoffs. Richard has nothing but good wishes for the Canadiens, and his time with them may not be over: he plans to remain a goodwill ambassador for the team. 
• "Perhaps I can do as much for the club off the ice as in the lineup," Richard told reporters at his press conference, referring to his proposed role as a goodwill ambassador. (Source: Globe and Mail, Sept. 16, 1960)

• Richard's signature #9 was retired by the Canadiens on Oct. 6, 1960 - the second Canadiens number to receive that honour. (Howie Morenz's #7 was the first in 1937.)

• In June 1961, Richard was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame. Usually, a player had to wait at least three years after retiring to become eligible, but the requirement was waived in Richard's case. Only nine players have been similarly honoured as of 2006.

• Because Richard's contract with the Canadiens had not yet run out, the team was obligated to continue paying his salary of $25,000 (about $175,000 in 2006 dollars) for three years.

• Two years after retiring, Richard asked that his ambassador duties decrease. The team then reduced his salary by half, and Richard eventually cut off his ties with them around 1965.

• Richard went into business for himself, buying a pub in downtown Montreal and then selling it three years later for a good profit. He invested the proceeds in a fishing-line firm that he operated from his basement.

• Richard's record of 544 NHL career goals in regular season play was first broken in October 1963 by Detroit's Gordie Howe. Richard pointed out to journalists that he had achieved the record over 978 games, but it took Howe 1,126 games to beat it.

• Richard said Howe was the NHL's best player of the previous 15 or 16 years. "Certainly, for one thing, he gets a lot of time on the ice - and of course gets more points," he told the Globe and Mail.
Medium: Radio
Program: CBC Radio News
Broadcast Date: Sept. 15, 1960
Duration: 2:14

Last updated: November 6, 2014

Page consulted on November 6, 2014

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