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Maurice Richard

Rue Ste-Catherine is the central east-west artery of Montreal – and also the parade route for Montreal’s oft-Stanley Cup winning Canadiens. It was also the site of, on the evening of March 17th 1955, the ‘Richard Riot’.


MAURICE RICHARD (words & music Mike Ford)


Maurice Richard

They’ll never drag you down

We’ll carry your torch high

All through this town


On Ste-Catherine

I lit a bonfire for you

A sweet sidewalk sacrament

In gold red and blue


For fifteen thousand at the Forum

The centre of the storm

Is the saviour in all of our prayers

 Now in the big leagues I see

So much celebrity

And each one is a millionaire

 But where is the one to die for

Like our silent matador


Maurice Richard

There’s another game on tonight

And if you could score just one more time

We’d feel alright

If you could score just one more time

I’d feel alright




Key Terms & Phrases

Maurice Richard

Joseph Henri Maurice "the Rocket" Richard, Sr. August 4, 1921 – May 27, 2000) played for the Montreal Canadiens of the National Hockey League (NHL) from 1942 to 1960. The "Rocket" was the most prolific goal-scorer of his era, the first to achieve the feat of 50 goals in 50 games and the first to score 500 goals in a career. He finished his career with 544 goals in the regular season, with 82 in the playoffs which included a record six overtime winners (surpassed only by Joe Sakic who has eight), and led the league in goals five times. He also amassed 421 assists for a total of 965 points in 978 games. He retired as the NHL's all-time leading scorer (1960).

Richard won the Stanley Cup eight times in Montreal, was captain of four straight cup wins from 1957–1960, won the Hart Trophy in 1947, was elected eight times to the first all-star team and six times to the second all-star team, and played in every National Hockey League All-Star Game from 1947 to 1959. Teamed with Elmer Lach as centre and Hector 'Toe' Blake playing left-wing, they formed the "Punch Line".

He was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1961, the customary three-year waiting period being waived in his honour.

Although not considered the most technically brilliant player of his era, many cite his unsurpassable passion as the key ingredient to his dominance of the sport. In French Canada of the 1950s (and ever since) Richard was, and has been, held in almost mythical regard – as athletic ultra-hero, cultural idol and symbol of determination and defiance against all odds.


Rue Ste-Catherine is the central east-west artery of Montreal – lined by the city’s biggest shopping and business districts, several of the big universities, and of course, The Montreal Forum. The street was also the parade route for Montreal’s oft-Stanley Cup winning Canadiens. It was also the site of, on the evening of March 17th 1955, some of the rampaging of the ‘Richard Riot’.


The Forum

The Montreal Forum has been called "the most storied building in hockey history”. It was home of the national Hockey League’s Montreal Canadiens from 1926 to 96 – in those 70 years, Montreal won the cup 22 times (and another early resident squad, the Montreal Maroons, won it twice). It sits at the corner of Ste-Catherine and Atwater. The modernised version of the Forum was turned into a multi-plex cinema (and sports museum) in 1996. The Canadiens now play at The Bell Centre.




Composer Notes

The world of sport yields many crucial historical stories. The combination of extra-ordinary athletic prowess and style, identity (ethnic or otherwise), challenges overcome and political stances or actions taken beyond sport can create heroic figures and legends that become central to a particular society and era. Events such as Tom Longboat’s 1907 Boston Marathon victory or Jonathan Cheechoo’s 2004/5 NHL scoring title have huge significance for First Nations communities. Sandy Koufax, one of Major League Baseball’s all-time greatest pitchers, refused to pitch in Game 1 of the 1965 World Series because it fell on the Jewish Yom Kippur holiday, creating a legend still quoted. Muhammad Ali, who in 1967 was World Heavyweight Boxing Champion and at the top of his game, refused to be inducted into the U.S. military based on his religious beliefs and opposition to the Vietnam War. The 1998 World Cup Victory by the multi-racial French team is held by many to represent a critical societal breakthrough for that country. These and many other examples exemplify the power and resonance many sports-based stories have beyond the world of sport.

One of Canada’s most electrifying athletes ever, Maurice Richard, is also at the heart of a momentous civic event – The ‘Richard’ Riot of March 17th, 1955. To understand the context of that riot, one needs to consider a number of realities – the incredible dominance of Richard on the ice and in the hearts of the fans, the perception that rough treatment he was getting from opposing players was going unpunished, the crucial importance of the Montreal Canadiens to the people, the underdog position of the French language, French-Canadian culture and French-Canadian ethnicity at that time and place, the significance of the league’s Commissioner, Clarence Campbell, a unilingual anglophone, whose office looked down from the highest skyscraper in the city, etc. All these realities and more go into the powder keg that erupted at the first home game following Richard’s suspension. Some of the feeling I try to capture in this song was enigmatically demonstrated when an 80-year old Richard himself was introduced at the opening night of the new Montreal Canadiens arena in 1996. The national tv audience looked on as the arena crowd gave Richard an almost 15-minute standing ovation. Four years later over xxxx people filed past his coffin at centre ice…

A also wrote a rhythmic spoken-word intro to my Maurice Richard song, not recorded for Canada Needs You, volume two, but sometimes performed live. The intro is meant to establish some of the realities listed above. Below are the lyrics to that intro:


nineteen fifty-five, come one come all

to the city of churches, montreal

where one holy shrine shines above the rest

home of the best of the blessed put to the test

over ice and steel


where the hunger for the cup is something serious and real


the people’s lives lived en français under the cross

but you better speak english to the boss

if you wanna get get ahead or deserve a raise

it’s the language that pays through the days

but when The Rocket plays they stand in awe


they can see the greatest hockey superstar is quebecois


yes Rocket Richard was a burnin’ flame, red hot inside

but one night at a game they hurt his pride

and he lashed out with all of his might

the crowd’s fuse did ignite at the sight, turned into the night

burning cars and smashin’ glass


behold the anger of people too long treated second class


For the style of the body of the song that follows, I decided upon an imagined personal point of view. The narrator is a devout young follower of Richard, perhaps wandering the streets in the early morning aftermath of the riot. Part of my inspiration for this character was found in the Roch Carrier book Le Rocket I wanted the music to be quiet and meditative – the thoughts floating in the narrators mind.

Lyrically, the narrator is bitter. Ste Catherine is one of the main streets of Montreal, where, unlike today, mostly English signs would have been seen in 1955, in spite of the majority language. I give the bonfire colours as Gold, Red and Blue instead of the bleu-blanc-rouge (blue-white-red) of Les Canadiens as I felt it better suggested fire, and that something had changed. In the song’s Bridge (sixteen thousand at the forum…) the narrators suddenly admits to a modern-day vantage point (now in the big leagues I see…) to reveal that the riot is in fact a memory, and together with the final verse’s pleading (if you could score one more time…) I’m trying to evoke a sense of nostalgia – a deep yearning I myself often experience when looking at certain pictures or other evidence of ‘simpler’ times long gone.


Activities & Discussions


1.Why did Maurice Richard mean so much to people in 1950’s Montreal that his suspension resulted in a huge riot?

2.How do the lives of any of the following athletic figures resound beyond just sports?: ◦Mohammed Ali

◦Sandy Koufax

◦Chantal Petitclerc

◦Tom Longboat

◦Joannie Rochette

◦Jonathan Cheechoo


3.Do the high salaries of many present-day athletes make them more, or less likely to have a cultural impact like that of Maurice Richard?



Choose one or more athletes from professional or amateur sport and create Cultural Trading Cards. View actual hockey, baseball or other cards for layout and graphic ideas. On your cards, instead of the usual statistics of point production, awards, etc, find a way to show that athlete’s cultural impact or importance, perhaps even using similar-looking statistic charts (i.e.- ‘young lives inspired – 26,787; social obstacles overcome – 13; economic strata in childhood compared to present salary; radical career decisions; etc). Explain some of these statistics in detail, using anecdote, cartoon drawing, invented award, etc.


References / Suggested Readings

Carrier, Roch Le Rocket Stanké, Montreal, 2000 (translated as Our Life with the Rocket: The Maurice Richard Story, New York, Viking 2001)