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1955: Canadiens fans riot in Montreal over Richard suspension

The Story

On March 13, 1955, a game between the Montreal Canadiens and the Boston Bruins turns ugly when defenceman Hal Laycoe high-sticks Maurice Richard in the head. The Rocket goes ballistic, attacking Laycoe with his stick and fighting off linesmen attempting to restrain him, eventually knocking one unconscious. Three days later, NHL president Clarence Campbell comes down hard on the Rocket, suspending him for not only the rest of the season, but for the playoffs too. When Campbell turns up at a Habs game on March 17, resentful fans pelt him with eggs, vegetables, shoe rubbers and insults. Then someone detonates a tear gas bomb, forcing the evacuation of the building and an outpouring of spectators onto Montreal's Ste-Catherine Street, as seen in this CBC-TV retrospective. They join more angry fans outside and the crowd turns violent, looting nearby shops. In the end, 60 people are arrested and almost 40 more are injured, including a dozen police officers. 

Medium: Television
Program: Hockey Night in Canada
Broadcast Date: March 17, 1955
Duration: 4:01

Did You know?

• According to the NHL's official account, Richard repeatedly broke away from struggling linesmen to pummel Laycoe, eventually breaking his stick on the defenceman's back.

• In rendering Richard's suspension, Campbell cited previous indiscretions towards on-ice officials. It was the longest suspension in NHL history, jeopardizing Richard's pursuit of the scoring title and the team's first-place position and Stanley Cup hopes.

• Campbell attended the Habs game with his fiancé one day after the suspension. He was not the only victim of projectiles raining down: nearby spectators were hit too. Given the chaos inside the Forum that night, Campbell ordered the game forfeited in Detroit's favour

• The forfeited match gave the Red Wings the top spot in the league. In the weeks ahead, Detroit would go on to defeat Montreal in the Stanley Cup finals - a close series that required all seven games to be decided. Canadiens fans insist that Montreal would have defeated Detroit for the championship title had Richard not been suspended.

• For his part, Richard told the media, "I will take my punishment and come back next year to help the club and the younger players to win the cup." The resurgent Habs went on to defeat Detroit in the following year's Stanley Cup finals, collecting the first of a record five consecutive championships.


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