Inducted in 1975
Won eight Stanley Cups - Montreal Canadiens
A hero and legend, Maurice Richard is so much more than just a goal scorer, but even in that context alone he was the greatest of his era. He joined the Montreal Canadiens in 1942, during the worst years of the war, but that rookie season was cut short by a broken leg. He recovered fully and scored 32 goals in his first full season, an amazing total even if it were produced at a time when many of the best players from around the league were in the army. The Canadiens won the Stanley Cup that year, Richard's first of eight league championships. In 1944-45, Richard blasted his way into the record books by scoring 50 goals in 50 games. He was the first to reach the magical half-century mark, and his 50-in-50 production stood for more than 30 years until Mike Bossy of the Islanders equaled the feat. His mark of 50 goals stood some two decades until the NHL's schedule had swelled to 70 games. The next year Richard slumped to 27 goals, but the Canadiens won the Cup, and then he had 45 the year after to lead the league again. In all, he had 14 straight years of at least 20 goals, a statistic amazing for its consistency. The goals were one thing, but the way he scored them was another. For starters, he played right wing despite being a left-hand shot. This was a unique strategy which allowed him to burst down his off wing to create a better shooting angle on the goalie. More important, he was the most feared man inside the enemy blueline, a man opponents described as having "fire in his eyes." For all of the above, he was given the nickname the "Rocket," and surely if nothing else he lived up to that nickname every game he played. Along with that fire was a temper, a temper that inspired him to succeed but one also that caused him to lose his composure. Most famously, he struck a linesman over the head in a game near the end of the regular season in 1954-55. NHL president Clarence Campbell suspended Richard for the last three games of the regular season and all of the playoffs, a stern but fair penalty, to be sure. The next home game for Montreal after the suspension, however, resulted in the famous Richard Riot, as fans first pelted Campbell from his seat and then took their anger to the streets, looting, setting fires, and causing civic havoc. Richard himself had to go on the radio to appeal for peace. The Riot, though, symbolized Richard's status not just in hockey by in Quebecois life. He was a hero who came from a working-class family, a French hero whose English was weak and who was proudly and defiantly "French Canadian." The Riot was a show of support for the man more than any direct association with hitting a linesman in a game. Richard returned to action the next year as volatile and effective as ever. He scored 38 goals, the same total as the previous year, and started the team on a streak of five Stanley Cups in a row. By '59-'60, though, it was clear he was slowing down, yet he still managed 19 goals. He had just one more in the playoffs, and at training camp to start the '60-'61 season he called it quits. By this time he had 544 goals, a new league record. He had played in a record 13 consecutive All-Star Games and was considered the finest scorer the game had ever known. The Hockey Hall of Fame waived the five-year wait and inducted him that same year. In 1998, the NHL introduced the Rocket Richard Trophy to be given annually to the player who leads the league in goals. And, when he died in 2000, Richard's body lay in state at the Molson Centre much like Howie Morenz's had in the Forum in 1937, and thousands of fans filed past his body to pay their final respects. He was a great hockey player, but he was a player for the people of Quebec, a hero for who he was as a man more than for the sport he played so well.