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Fanspeak: Maurice Richard named greatest player in Canadiens history

Aug 24, 2014, 4:40 PM EDT

Richard Beliveau 1958 Stanley Cup Getty Images

This summer, NBC Sports’ social media team is conducting the #NHLGreatest initiative, designed for fans to choose the best player in each franchise’s history. Balloting was conducted through three platforms — Facebook, Twitter and Instagram — with thousands of votes being cast. The results of this initiative will be released throughout the month of August, in conjunction with PHT’s Team of the Day series.

Montreal Canadiens

1. Maurice Richard (597)

2. Guy Lafleur (372)

3. Ken Dryden (238)

4. Jean Beliveau (204)

5. Jacques Plante (93)

6. Larry Robinson (91)

You won’t see any other team with a legend like revolutionary goalie Jacques Plante listed in fifth place in its franchise history – not to mention one where Patrick Roy’s name wouldn’t even make it on the list – but then again, there’s really no team quite like the Montreal Canadiens. As iconic as many of these names are – Jean Beliveau coming in at No. 4 is too fitting – it’s easy to see why Maurice “The Rocket” Richard topped the list.

As fantastic as Richard (pictured to the left of Beliveau) was as a player, he meant just as much to the region as a symbol.

Modern reactions to suspension verdicts pale in comparison to the culturally-charged riot that broke out on March 17, 1955 following the decision to punish Richard’s on-ice outburst by making him sit out the remainder of the 1954-55 season. It was one of the darkest moments in both NHL and Canadiens history, yet it also said a lot about how much “The Rocket” meant to fans.

For the most part, No. 9 conjures up images of one of the greatest scorers in NHL history. He was the first to collect 50 goals in a season and finished his lengthy career with 544 regular season tallies and also found the net 82 times in 133 playoff contests.

He ended up with eight Stanley Cup victories in his career, which was impressive just about everywhere except maybe the Richard household (his brother Henri won a ridiculous 11 championships).

Richard remains the franchise leader in goals with those 544, though Guy Lafleur (518) and Beliveau (507) didn’t finish far behind. Richard finished fourth all-time in points behind Lafleur, Beliveau and his brother, but those numbers only matter so much.

“The Rocket” died in May 2000, yet his legacy (and that iconic glare) won’t fade anytime soon.

  1. cantescapekarma - Aug 24, 2014 at 5:05 PM

    I wonder how many (if Any at all) of the people who voted for Richard were even alive yet when he was still playing… He retired in 1960. That speaks very loudly of the legacy he left behind from his playing days.

    • rsmaggiemae - Aug 25, 2014 at 12:07 AM

      I am a old hockey fan and did watch Richard in the 50’s and early 60’ss
      He was a great player but I cant believe the pocket rocket was not on that list
      that was surprising. I would have put him above Le Fleur…
      I would have put Beliveau way up on that list above Dryden..
      You have had sooooooooooooooooooooooo many great players for the Habs that it is very difficult to say one player was the best as they all played as a team not as a individual effort … I always said they had the best hockey teams in the league
      and I live in Minnesota .had to watch the Habs game, but then I am French Canadian
      also so am biased

    • kaptaanamerica - Aug 25, 2014 at 3:57 PM

      One of the top players ever to play the game. People talk about Gretzky, but I’d take the Rocket over him 7/7 days of the week.

  2. nothanksimdriving123 - Aug 24, 2014 at 6:27 PM

    The story mentions his career totals, but I think it worth noting that when the Rocket retired, his 544 goals were almost 100 ahead of the man in 2nd place, Gordie Howe. First to 50 in a season, first to 500 in a career, first with 5 in an NHL playoff game. Goalies of his era told of their fear of the look in the Rocket’s eyes when he flew in toward them at full speed.
    Meanwhile, it speaks volumes about this franchise’s history that missing from even the top 6 are other Hall of Fame stars: captains Henri Richard and Yvan Cournoyer won 21 Stanley Cups between them; Doug Harvey won the Norris Trophy 6 times as a Hab; Gump Worsley won 2 Vezina Trophies; and speaking of that award, goalie Georges Vezina never won it, but, um; Guy Lapointe was an All-Star 4 times; Bernie Geoffrion was the 2nd guy to score 50; pre-WWII superstar Howie Morenz was a Hart Trophy winner 3 times, and we aren’t even done with their Hall of Famers!

    • rsmaggiemae - Aug 25, 2014 at 12:08 AM

      I could have not stated any better than you did regarding all the great players for the Habs

  3. blackhawks2010 - Aug 24, 2014 at 6:31 PM

    You know your a great franchise when the best netminder of all time is not even on the list, Patrick Roy.

    Bleu Blanc Rouge

    • jason9696 - Aug 24, 2014 at 8:35 PM

      I think you’re talking about Martin Brodeur or Dominik Hasek.

      • cheliostwin - Aug 26, 2014 at 1:58 AM

        I’d put Terry Sawchuk above Roy on any all-time goalie list.

  4. 950003cups - Aug 24, 2014 at 7:30 PM

    Maurice Richard wins just on his merits based on the film “The Rocket” which is the Maurice Richard story. He’s the Habs best player ever!!

  5. clpalermo94 - Aug 24, 2014 at 8:10 PM

    What a list!

  6. broadstreetbeatdown - Aug 24, 2014 at 11:26 PM

    Can’t complain about that list.

  7. blomfeld - Aug 24, 2014 at 11:31 PM

    Félicitations Montréal !

    Le choix de Maurice Richard comme votre ‘le plus grand jamais’ le joueur est tant mérité et tout à fait intelligible. Il ‘a défini’ votre cause comme nul autre joueur pourrait jamais faire. Simplement mis, il y a l’équipe “Non” aux sports professionnels aujourd’hui qui peuvent se vanter un si ‘legs fier et victorious’ comme le vôtre ! Soyez pour toujours fier de votre gloire et vitesse de Dieu ! …

    Blomfeld, a son of dear Montreal

    • sviginak - Aug 25, 2014 at 12:06 AM

      J’ai grandi dans le nord du Minnesota regarder Roquette Richard le Samedi Soir au Canada!

      • blomfeld - Aug 25, 2014 at 1:03 AM

        L’ami, je me tiens debout dans ‘la solidarité’ avec vous sur cela ! :)

        MONTREAL ROCKS !!!

  8. quizguy66 - Aug 25, 2014 at 1:35 PM

    That Richard picture is my favorite hockey photo of all time. And I’m pretty sure that was just for a hockey card – imagine what that look was during the game!

  9. guypatsfan - Aug 29, 2014 at 9:23 AM

    Personally I would have put Beliveau at #2 and Lafleur at #3. An amazing list nonetheless, it speaks volumes about the Habs’ glory days. I was lucky enough to witness a good portion of it in the 60s and 70s, what with Beliveau’s stateliness and leadership and Lafleur’s excitement and skills.

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