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A hero’s funeral for Maurice Richard

The Story


Once again, Montrealers are lining the streets in honour of hockey legend Maurice Richard. But unlike the celebratory Stanley Cup parades of the past, the mood this time is sombre. Four days after Richard died of abdominal cancer, at age 78, he's being honoured with a state funeral - the first for a non-political figure in Quebec's history. After saying goodbye, three of Richard's teammates talk to the CBC's Terence McKenna about playing hockey with the Rocket. 

Medium: Television
Program: The National Magazine
Broadcast Date: May 31, 2000
Guest(s): Jean Béliveau, Elmer Lach, Gerry McNeil
Host: Brian Stewart
Reporter: Terence McKenna
Duration: 5:23

Did You know?


• One of the last times Montrealers got a chance to pay tribute to the Rocket in person was in March 1996. After the Montreal Canadiens played their last game at the Forum, several team legends said farewell to the arena in a 50-minute ceremony. Richard's appearance drew the loudest and longest applause, and the ovation moved him to tears.
• Richard also appeared at Montreal's Molson Centre in October 1999 to help promote a TV miniseries about him.

• Richard's illness first became public in March 1998, two months after his diagnosis. Despite having an inoperable malignant tumour in his stomach, he was able to continue his day-to-day life with the help of "six pills a day."
• Though it seemed he had successfully fought off his cancer a year earlier, Richard's condition worsened considerably in May 2000, and he was admitted to hospital.

• Maurice Richard died on May 27, 2000. Upon his death, Quebec Premier Lucien Bouchard offered the Richard family the option of a state funeral, which they accepted.
See a CBC Archives clip about how Richard's fans reacted to news of his death.
• The day before the funeral, Richard's body lay in state at the Molson Centre. An estimated 115,000 mourners viewed the casket and signed a book of remembrance for Richard.

• An estimated 2,700 mourners - many of them ordinary Montrealers - filled the city's Notre Dame Basilica for the funeral service. Thousands more stood on the street outside to watch the service on a big screen.
• Among those attending the funeral were Prime Minister Jean Chrétien, former prime minister Brian Mulroney, and Premier Lucien Bouchard. Many of Richard's former teammates and opponents, including Gordie Howe, also attended.

• "When we see him go today, we recall our youth, our childhood. He was the man of our childhood, for people of my generation. It's a bit of our childhood that disappears." - Lucien Bouchard
• Richard is remembered in many ways. In 1999, the National Hockey League created a new post-season award, the Maurice Richard Trophy, for the player earning the most goals in a season.

• In 2002, Richard's family was set to auction off many of his trophies, sticks and a Stanley Cup ring. Alarmed that many of the items would go to bidders in the United States and be lost forever, the governments of Quebec and Canada acted together, declaring 57 pieces national treasures and spending $400,000 to secure others.
• The collection, called Rocket Richard: The Legend, The Legacy, debuted at the Canadian Museum of Civilization in April 2004.


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