Maurice Richard announces his retirement at the Queen Elizabeth Hotel (Photo: David Bier)
The Rocket Hangs Them Up
On the morning of September 15, 1960, Maurice Richard took to the ice with his teammates for the morning skate at training camp. During the team scrimmage, he potted four goals on goaltender Jacques Plante and assisted on three others.
Following the day’s workout, the Rocket was spotted heading to the office of GM Frank Selke. A half an hour later, a saddened and frustrated Richard walked out.
“What’s happening?” inquired the Montreal Star’s beat reporter with the Canadiens.
“They want me to retire,” was his answer.
Hours later the 39-year old right winger addressed the media at the Queen Elizabeth Hotel. He would speak first in French and then in English “For more than two years, I have thought more about it than anything else, Richard said. “I knew the day was coming sometime.” Emotions came over him as he continued.
After “18 wonderful years” with the Canadiens Richard told the media that it was now time to hang up the skates. “I guess I finally realized this game was getting too fast for me,” he said. “I would have had to take a lot of weight in order to play this season and that is not so easy to do at my age.”
Richard’s weight had been a concern with the Canadiens since the previous season. Nobody on the team staff knew how much he really weighed. Coach Toe Blake even said he never knew, as his captain “would never get on the scale.” Richard’s age and recent run of injuries were a also concern to the club. Selke felt that Richard retiring on a high note (five straight Stanley Cups) was a better choice, rather than risk a disappointing season to end to his Hall of Fame career.
“It would be foolish of Maurice to risk further injury,” Selke confirmed, following the announcement. Selke also stated that the club was keeping Richard on the payroll as a team ambassador to ease the transition from playing. The team added that the No. 9 sweater would stay with the Richard family, retiring the No. 9 on October 6, 1960 until the possible day came that one of his heirs would claim it. That never happened.
When asked who would replace Richard by reporters, coach Blake replied, “With two men. We’re going to ask the league if we can use seven men.”
Maurice Richard retired with 17 NHL scoring records to his name. He still shares the record for goals in a playoff game with five. His 544 career NHL goals has since been eclipsed several times over in the league, but remains a Canadiens record.
Records aside, he was and to this day remains an icon in the cultural history of Quebec and for that matter all of Canada. His exploits were known both in North America and around the world.
“He sure was a drawing card,” said Gordie Howe, upon news of Richard’s retirement. “He brought in the crowds that helped pay our wages. Richard certainly has been one of the greatest players in the game and we will miss him.”
Below is the report from the CBC Archives (audio), announcing Richard’s retirement.
Also on This Day…
1982: The Canadiens trade golatender Denis Herron to the Pittsburgh Penguins for a third round pick in the 1985 NHL Amateur Draft.
Irvin, Dick, The Habs: An Oral History of the Montreal Canadiens
Janish, D’Arcy, The Montreal Canadiens: 100 Years of Glory
Associated Press, September 16, 1960, “Rocket Richard Retires from Canadiens”
The Ottawa Sun, September 16, 1960, CP, “Howe’s Tribute to Richard”
The Ottawa Sun, September 16, 1960, CP, “Need 2 Men To Replace The Rocket”
The Windsor Star, September 16, 1960, CP, “Rocket Richard Announces Retirement from Hockey”
Special Thanks to Francis Bouchard