Friday, 9 July 2010

Remembering The Rocket

There isn't much that can be said about Maurice "The Rocket" Richard that hasn't already been said. He was a dynamic scoring sensation for the Montreal Canadiens, he has a trophy named for his scoring achievements, and he is still one of the most beloved players in the history of the Montreal Canadiens. His intensity is legendary, his temper made him infamous, and he rallied French-Canadians against the Anglo-Canadians when he was suspended for striking an official. Yet there's a side of Maurice Richard that not many people know about, and it's impossible to see his private side since he has moved on to the big rink in the sky. That is, however, until I went digging through the National Film Board of Canada's archives once again. It was there that I discovered Maurice Richard gold!

The Rocket, a 1998 film by Jacques Payette, takes you inside the Richard's world where his closely-guarded personal life can be seen. The film runs 42:28, so you need a bit of time to watch it, but there are some great things seen in the film, and I'll try to point some of these out. Here is The Rocket.

  • Just 1:30 in, Maurice Richard explains how he played for the Maple Leafs! You can even see him in uniform at the 1:37 mark with Toronto's junior team! Wow!
  • At the 2:24 mark, you can see the old Detroit Red Wings sweater with the captain's "C" on the right side. As you know, the Wings are currently wearing the letter there now as an homage to their roots.
  • You can see Frank Selke, the man the Selke Trophy is named for, at the 2:30 mark.
  • At 4:48, Richard explains that some of the clauses in his contract were just between he and Selke. He also refutes Selke's comment about how Richard would sign blank contracts. Personally, I would take Richard at his word.
  • Check out the awesome NHL Old-Timers' sweaters at 7:50! Love the stripes!
  • Clarence Campbell heaps praise upon the Rocket at 8:10. And to think that these two men hated each other at one point!
  • Love the old Bruins sweaters at 8:26 as well, especially the stripes on the arms!
  • The man at the 9:53 mark is a broadcasting legend. René Lecavalier was the first host on La Soirée du Hockey, the french edition of Hockey Night In Canada. Lecavalier broadcast games for 30 years until he retired in 1985!
  • Former referee Red Storey explains how to stop The Rocket at 17:01: play dirty!
  • At 18:29, you can hear Clarence Campbell explain how he suspended Richard for the remainder of the season after he struck an official. Very interesting to hear Campbell tell his side of the story.
  • The scene following Campbell's explanation shows the Montreal reaction to his announcement. The footage here is absolutely amazing considering its historical perspective.
  • We get a good story at 26:37 from Maurice Richard's barber about his five-goal game against Toronto. Some good humour in that story, and you can tell Richard is pretty pleased with his little trick.
  • AT 29:50, you get to see the footage of Richard's 500th career goal scored against the Black Hawks.
  • You can see the press conference at 33:05 where Maurice Richard decides to hang up the skates after eighteen seasons with the blue-blanc-et-rouge.

You can tell that the people that Mr. Payette spoke to in this film hold Maurice Richard in high esteem. I also hold him in the highest esteem as he was an incredible player, an amazing ambassador, and the first man to polarize an entire group of people into becoming die-hard devotees to his style of play. Winning wasn't just an option; he made it his goal each and every night, and he shared it with all of his fans.

Mr. Payette's film is an absolute treasure, and it deserves a little recognition today!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

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