Friday, 19 October 2007

The Rocket's Benchmark

It was fifty years ago today that Maurice "The Rocket" Richard set the goal-scoring benchmark for great players and future Hall of Famers. On October 19, 1957, "The Rocket" took a pass from linemate Jean Beliveau and scored a powerplay goal at 15:52 of the first period that drew a standing ovation from the 14000-plus people at the Montreal Forum. Richard had just scored his 500th NHL goal in his storied career at 36 years of age. The Montreal Canadiens would go on to win the game over the Chicago Blackhawks by a score of 3-1, and Richard's benchmark would be the mark that all other players would measure themselves against.

"The great crowd of 14,000 and change at the Montreal Forum went nuts," longtime Montreal Gazette reporter, Red Fisher, recalled. "When the goal was announced, the ovation for him was a little over two minutes and probably would have continued if the officials hadn’t got the teams together and restarted the play."

Richard retired from the game after the 1959-60 campaign with 544 goals to his name. In 1944-45, he set the 50-goals-in-50-games record that a few have since broken. "The Rocket" scored his first goal in 1942, and helped the Canadiens win eight Stanley Cups over the course of his career, including five consecutive Stanley Cups from 1956 to 1960.

Maurice Richard, unfortunately, passed away after a lengthy battle with cancer on May 27, 2000. The Montreal Canadiens are planning a scoreboard tribute to "The Rocket" before their game against the visiting Barney Rubble Hairpieces this Saturday in honour of Mr. Richard's achievement.

"I remember that getting to 500 was pretty special," Wayne Gretzky told "Growing up as a kid, you see Maurice Richard got 500 and Gordie Howe got 500 and that was sort of the benchmark."

Gordie Howe became the second player with 500 goals on March 14, 1963. Longtime Chicago Blackhawk and Winnipeg Jet Bobby Hull achieved the mark on Feb. 21, 1970 to become the third player. Richard's linemate on his historic night, Jean Beliveau, accomplished the 500-goal feat on Feb. 11, 1971. Frank Mahovlich of the Montreal Canadiens was the fifth player to hit that mark, doing so on March 21, 1973.

In total, there have been 39 players to hit the 500-goal plateau. Here are some quick facts about those who have hit the 500-goal mark in their careers:

- three players scored goal #500 into empty nets: Mike Bossy, Wayne Gretzky and Jari Kurri.
- seven players got their 500th goal to complete hat-tricks: Jean Beliveau, Wayne Gretzky, Mario Lemieux, Mark Messier, Brett Hull, Jaromir Jagr, and Mats Sundin.
- Hall of Fame goaltender Patrick Roy allowed three 500th goals: Steve Yzerman, Joe Mullen, and Brendan Shanahan.
- 13 were scored on the powerplay.
- two were short-handed: Gordie Howe and Mats Sundin.
- Mats Sundin's 500th goal was the only one scored in overtime.
- 26 of the 39 players scored their 500th goals on home ice.
- Joe Sakic of the Colorado Avalanche scored his 500th goal in his hometown of Vancouver, British Columbia.
- 14 players scored all 500 with the same franchise. They include Maurice Richard, Gordie Howe, Bobby Hull, Jean Beliveau, Stan Makita, Guy Lafleur, Mike Bossy, Gilbert Perreault, Wayne Gretzky, Bryan Trottier, Mario Lemieux, Steve Yzerman, Joe Sakic, and Mike Modano.
- Joe Mullen and Mike Modano are the only two Americans to have scored 500 goals in their careers thus far. Jeremy Roenick of the San Jose Sharks has 497 thus far, and Keith Tkachuk has 476.

Here is the complete list of players who have scored 500 career NHL goals, in chronological order and the goalie each accomplished the feat against:

Maurice Richard (Oct. 19, 1957 vs. Glenn Hall)
Gordie Howe (Mar. 14, 1962 vs. Gump Worsley)
Bobby Hull (Feb. 21, 1970 vs. Ed Giacomin)
Jean Beliveau (Feb. 11, 1971 vs. Gilles Gilbert)
Frank Mahovlich (Mar. 21, 1973 vs. Dunc Wilson)
Johnny Bucyk (Oct. 30, 1975 vs. Yves Belanger)
Stan Mikita (Feb. 27, 1977 vs. Cesare Maniago)
Marcel Dionne (Dec. 14, 1982 vs. Al Jensen)
Guy Lafleur (Dec. 20, 1983 vs. Chico Resch)
Mike Bossy (Jan. 2, 1986 into an empty net)
Gilbert Perreault (Mar. 9, 1986 vs. Alain Chevrier)
Wayne Gretzky (Nov. 22, 1986 into an empty net)
Lanny McDonald (Mar. 21, 1989 vs. Mark Fitzpatrick)
Bryan Trottier (Feb. 13, 1990 vs. Rick Wamsley)
Mike Gartner (Oct. 14, 1991 vs. Mike Liut)
Michel Goulet (Feb. 16, 1992 vs. Jeff Reese)
Jari Kurri (Oct. 17, 1992 into an empty net)
Dino Ciccarelli (Jan. 8, 1994 vs. Kelly Hrudey)
Mario Lemieux (Oct. 26, 1995 vs. Tommy Soderstrom)
Mark Messier (Nov. 6, 1995 vs. Rick Tabaracci)
Steve Yzerman (Jan. 17, 1996 vs. Patrick Roy)
Dale Hawerchuk (Jan. 31, 1996 vs. Felix Potvin)
Brett Hull (Dec. 22, 1996 vs. Stephane Fiset)
Joe Mullen (Mar. 14, 1997 vs. Patrick Roy)
Dave Andreychuk (Mar. 15, 1997 vs. Bill Ranford)
Luc Robitaille (Jan. 7, 1999 vs. Dwayne Roloson)
Pat Verbeek (Mar. 22, 2000 vs. Fred Brathwaite)
Ron Francis (Jan. 2, 2002 vs. Byron Dafoe)
Brendan Shanahan (Mar. 23, 2002 vs. Patrick Roy)
Joe Sakic (Dec. 11, 2002 vs. Dan Cloutier)
Joe Nieuwendyk (Jan. 17, 2003 vs. Kevin Weekes)
Jaromir Jagr (Feb. 4, 2003 vs. John Grahame)
Pierre Turgeon (Nov. 8, 2005 vs. Vesa Toskala)
Mats Sundin (Oct. 14, 2006 vs. Miikka Kiprusoff)
Teemu Selanne (Nov. 22, 2006 vs. Jose Theodore)
Peter Bondra (Dec. 22, 2006 vs. J.S. Aubin)
Mark Recchi (Jan. 26, 2007 vs. Marty Turco)
Mike Modano (Mar. 13, 2007 vs. Antero Niittymaki)

Rest in peace, Monsieur Richard. Your benchmark will live on forever as players strive to equal or better it. Roenick is next, barring any sort of injury, so be prepared, San Jose. He'll let you know about it when he hits it.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

1 comment:

Kirsten said...

Those are some awesome stats. A very nice tribute to Mr. Richard.