Nicknamed "The Rocket" for his goal-scoring prowess and blazing speed, Montréal-born Joseph Henri Maurice Richard, is widely recognized as hockey's best pure scorer.
He began playing on a backyard rink built by his father, and climbed through the minor ranks, sometimes playing for as many as four or five teams in different local leagues.
Despite a reputation of fragility due to several injuries during his years in the minors, Richard's early brilliance won him a spot with the Montréal Canadiens for the 1942-43 season. He scored five goals and collected six assists in his first 16 games, but was sidelined again by a broken ankle. He returned to the team in 1943-44, and scored 32 goals in 46 games.
During his 18 years in the National Hockey League, he led the Canadiens to eight Stanley Cups. He scored 626 goals, was named to the All-Star team 14 times, and won the NHL's Most Valuable Player award during the 1946-47 season, when he scored 50 goals in 50 games, a record that stood for 36 years. A true team player, he had the gift of being able to motivate his teammates and fans.On Sept. 15, 1960, after a training camp scrimmage in which he scored four goals, he announced his retirement. Less than a year later, The Rocket was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame. The much beloved Richard is a Companion of the Order of Canada. He died on May 27, 2000 in Montréal at the age of 78.
Although being long retired by the time of his death in 2000, an estimated 115,000 people of all ages paid their respects while his body lay in state at Montreal's Bell Centre. Following Richard's death, the Montreal Expos Major League baseball team wore Richard's number 9, in black, on their right sleeves for the duration of the 2000 season, and flags were lowered to half staff as Quebec's National Assembly was suspended for the day. Richard was given a provincial state funeral that was broadcast live across Canada, the first time such an honour was bestowed on an athlete.