Maurice 'Rocket' Richard's path to hockey glory

He started out with team management doubting his durability. But Maurice Richard went on to win eight Stanley Cups with the Montreal Canadiens.
From the streets of Depression-era Montreal to the glaring lights of the Forum, Maurice Richard has his sights set on greatness. Photo: Hockey Hall of Fame 5:05
Nearly a century ago, a Montreal couple welcomed their first-born child into the world.

The baby born on Aug. 4, 1921 to Onésime Richard and his wife, Alice, was named Maurice. He would grow up to become a hockey legend known as The Rocket.

Richard started playing hockey in childhood. In 1960, CBC-TV explored his early years as part of a profile that can be viewed at the top of this page.

The year he turned 21, Richard hit the ice for the Montreal Canadiens, during the 1942-43 season.

He got hurt that December, however, and team officials let him know "they were not overly hopeful about a player who was injured so often," as heard in the television profile above.

First to 50 and first to 500

They were wrong to doubt his potential, as he would become the team's fourth-ever player to score 30 goals in a season a year later.

And during the 1944-45 season, Richard became the first NHL player to score 50 goals in a single season.

He also was the first to reach the mark of 500 regular-season goals — and you can hear audio from the night he set that record below.

Maurice Richard may be the oldest player in the NHL but he's still setting astonishing records. 3:21
 

Eight Stanley Cup victories

During his career, Richard won eight Stanley Cups with the Canadiens.

His first Cup win came in 1944, when Richard scored five goals for the Habs over the course of the Stanley Cup finals, including a hat trick in Game 2.

The atmosphere is electric as the unstoppable Maurice Richard helps the Canadiens end their Stanley Cup drought. 3:53

The last Cup victory in his career came in the 1959-1960 season, the fifth consecutive championship win for the team — five seasons in which his little brother Henri, the so-called Pocket Rocket, was on the Canadiens' roster, as well.

The Canadiens had two Richards on the ice during the last five years of Maurice's career -- the other being his brother Henri, seen on the left-hand side of this photo. (Canadian Press)

'An idol' says goodbye

A few months later, the Rocket announced he'd decided to hang up his skates at the age of 39.

"The world's most colourful and impressive hockey player has become an idol to more young Canadians than any other athlete of his day," Ray Chaisson reported on CBC Radio, the day Richard announced he would end his legendary career.

At age 39, Richard makes the surprise announcement that he's retiring from professional hockey. 2:14

As heard in the clip above, Richard said that retirement had been on his mind for some time.

'I knew the day was coming'

"For more than two years, I have thought more about it than anything else," he said. "I knew the day was coming sometime and these last two years have been doubly difficult for me because of it."

Maurice Richard (left) and Jean Beliveau, of the Montreal Canadiens smile happily in the dressing room with the Stanley Cup after defeating the Boston Bruins 5-3 at the Boston Garden on April 20, 1958 to win the National Hockey League Championship. (Associated Press)

The Rocket said he'd always done his best for the Canadiens when wearing the club's uniform.

"I want to extend to each player on the team, as well as the club as a whole, my very best wishes for their continued success," said Richard.

Almost 40 years after he retired, Richard died in Montreal at the age of 78 on May 27, 2000, after a battle with cancer.

He was honoured with a state funeral four days later.

Montrealers line the streets for Maurice Richard's state funeral after his death from cancer at age 78. 5:23