Wednesday, August 04, 2010

The Rocket

The well dressed fellow above is one Maurice "the Rocket" Richard, born this day 1921 in Montreal, Canada. You wouldn't know it by the outfit above but M. Richard was a hockey player, and quite possibly the best hockey player ever to wear a Habs sweater, and that is saying A LOT.
He was the first player to score 50 goals in a season, and the first to score 500 in a career. He won the Stanley Cup eight fucking times, including four times in a row. He played in every NHL All-Star game for twelve straight years. When he retired in 1960 he was the NHL's all time leading scorer. The next year he was inducted into the NHL's Hall of Fame, the customary three year waiting period was waived in his case. That is how good his was, in a hockey mad town he received, when the old Montreal Forum was closed, the longest standing ovation in the history of the city, the crowd applauded him for 16 fucking minutes. This is Montreal people, a hotbed of hockey, and they don't take it lightly.
However, he did not walk on water, his actions in a game in 1955 sparked was has become known as the "Richard Riot." Neither he or the Montreal fans acted much like a hero that night, so the less said of it the better. I guess it does serve as a contrast, it shows that he might be a hero, but he is a flawed one. And, I suspect, that is how most heroes are, heroic, but flawed. Nobody is perfect, and if we found someone who we thought was perfect we would probably hate or stone them, or both.
Even though he had been retired for 40 years, at his funeral there were 115,000 people in attendance. That says a lot, both about what a fantastic player he was, and about how mad about hockey Montreal still is to this day. I am an unabashed Habs fan, and while I never saw "the Rocket" play, I understand his importance. I realize, from the old highlights, just how good his was, and why is name is said in a reverent hush. So, for all those "biscuits in the basket," and bringing home the Cup 8 times, Maurice "the Rocket" Richard (August 4th, 1921-May 27th, 2000, at the age of 78), you are my (358th) hero of the day.

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