Cornwall ON – To me Maurice Richard, “The Rocket” was the Babe Ruth of Hockey. Maybe not the best player ever, but to me and many of you surely “The Greatest” ever to wear a sweater.
I had the luck and privileged to work with The Rocket for a few years in the 90’s. He was still touring as a ref with the Greatest Hockey Legends touring team, but was also doing a lot of autograph signing gigs.
I got lucky and got to tour with the team and work with the team in addition to having Mr. Richard work a events and got to know him a bit. He was a gracious man and no matter where he was or the time of the day never turned a fan away.
Yet he was still human with them. There really were no barriers the way some players have today, many of whom don’t have a remote reason to be that way.
What hockey players don’t always clue into is that they get paid what they do because of the fans and owe the fans their livelihoods. In the Rocket’s day many of the players had to moonlight in the off season just to make ends meet. It wasn’t like it is today where a 4th liner makes almost ten times what the average good job does.
The CBC has an amazing tribute page to The Rocket including some great vintage video. CLICK HERE TO CHECK IT OUT
For me I have a few special Rocket memories. One was he graciously allowing me to shoot a video of him asking my dad to quit smoking. He took some time after a game and we shot it quickly in the dressing room. I showed it to my dad, but he must’ve been a closet Leaf fan as tobacco took his life a few years later.
The other was watching him skate on the ice. Maurice would take his stick out even though dressed as a ref and I watched him flick a puck top shelf as he skated by the net and made eye contact with him. Words would do that justice moment so I’ll stop typing about it, but it was magic; hockey magic, and that was what Maurice “Rocket” Richard was all about.