Here’s what’s certain: On December 28, 1944, Canadiens forward Maurice Richard set an NHL record with eight points in a single game by registering five goals and three assists in Montreal’s 9-1 win over the Detroit Red Wings at the Forum.
READ ALSO : Olofsson signs new contract with the Canadiens | Two missed dates for Johnny Bucyk | An unusual birthday for Dave Keon
The story, repeated, magnified and passed down for three quarters of a century, goes that before the game, the Rocket had spent the day moving his wife, Lucille, and their daughter Huguette, from end to end. another from Montreal, carrying furniture to the second floor of a duplex in Siberian cold with wind and snow.
But judging by comments made by Richard to a columnist for a French-language Montreal newspaper almost 15 years later, remarks discovered in an archived microfilm, the fiery attacker had moved the day before and had spent the day of the game undoing boxes in his new home. It doesn’t diminish what he accomplished on that historic night, but it does change one of the great stories about the Rocket.
The details of the story, as it has always been told, state that Richard showed up at the Forum on December 28 begging coach Dick Irvin not to play, saying he was exhausted after a day of moving. At Irvin’s request, he put on his uniform, being told that if he was too tired after an attendance or two, he could retire from the game.
Richard scored 67 seconds after the initial face-off, seemingly deciding he was going to keep playing before electrifying a jam-packed Forum with a performance that made history. His fifth goal was the 24th of the 1944-45 season. He was almost halfway to becoming the first NHL player to score 50 goals in a season.
Fifteen years after the feat, in his last season in the NHL, Richard confided that the day of the move did not really take place as it was told. This is a story that has been glorified in articles, books, documentaries and in a movie about the life of the Rocket released in 2005.
On October 16, 1959, Frank Selke, the Canadiens’ general manager at the time, was chatting with La Presse columnist Gérald Champagne about his own family’s move the previous day.
“It took all day, I was exhausted and I was thinking about Maurice Richard,” Selke told the reporter.
The GM then looked at Richard, who was in his 17th season in his 18-year career, in the Forum dressing room and he asked his captain: « How old were you when you scored five goals on your move day ? You must have been young. »
Richard replied: “I was 23 years old. Some reporters reported that I moved my furniture all day before the game against Detroit at the Forum that night, but that’s not true. The truth is, I moved out the night before, December 27, and went to bed late. Then, on December 28, I spent the day placing furniture in our new house on Papineau Street.
“When I arrived at the Forum, I was tired. Why hide it? In this game against Detroit, I probably played a little lucky. Harry Lumley (who had just turned 18 at the time) was in goal for the Red Wings and he was always my favorite goaltender. »
With reason. Richard has scored 88 of his 544 career goals against Lumley, a tally far exceeding his tally of goals scored against any other goalkeeper.
“Maurice Richard is precise when he takes shots on the ice, and he likes what is written about him to be just as precise,” Champagne wrote in his column published in La Presse in 1959. “He wanted to clarify certain things about the day of his famous achievement, December 28, 1944.”
This detail was new, even to Richard’s family.
« I had never heard of this story, » mentioned Maurice Richard Jr. this week, when asked about the fact that his father had discreetly rectified the situation several years later. « I only know the story of his eight-point game from what I’ve read over the years. »
Journalist Dick Irvin Jr., who was inducted into the Hall of Fame at the age of 12, wasn’t just at the game, he was sitting on the Canadiens’ bench at the invitation of his father, the coach of the team.
Irvin Sr.’s family stayed in Regina, Saskatchewan when he directed in Montreal, but his wife and two children came to visit him by train on occasion. That’s why Bertha, Fay, then 8, and young Dick were at the Forum that night.
Irvin Jr. recalls that NHL teams during the war years could dress only 14 players: nine forwards, four defensemen and one goaltender.
« So there was a lot of room at the end of the bench, and my dad sat me there, » he said, laughing as he recalled the memory. “John Getliffe, whose father Ray was on the team, sat in a wooden chair next to me. »
Richard’s first goal came at 1:07 of the first period and was followed by three more goals in the second period, then a final goal midway through the third period. His assists were amassed on goals from other Punch Line members: Elmer Lach, twice, and Toe Blake.
“Richard had one of those nights where he seems like a true hockey genius,” Montreal Gazette columnist Dink Carroll wrote the following day. “Last night, he made some electrifying plays that only he can do right now in the NHL. »
At the end of the Canadians’ bench, the coach’s son was at the forefront of this historic moment.
« I remember one of Richard’s goals, » Irvin said. He came back to the bench and the therapist wrapped a towel around his neck as he sat down next to me. I figured everyone in the building would wonder who the kid sitting next to the Rocket was. »
Richard’s third period goal tied the NHL record of seven points in a single game, then shared by 11 players.
“Every time he jumped on the ice, the crowd held their breath,” Carroll wrote.
The score was 8-0 when Detroit’s Syd Howe ended goaltender Bill Durnan’s shutout attempt at 13:16 of the third period.
Lach scored Montreal’s ninth goal with 13 seconds left. Everyone in the arena held their breath until the goal was announced, and then the fans exploded with joy.
Irvin recalls his dad, who didn’t care about Red Wings coach Jack Adams’ bluster, sent Lach to the Detroit bench to ask Adams if he wanted to forfeit as the Canadiens continued to struggle. accumulating goals. What followed was not pretty.
« On Richard’s last point, my dad got mad at the referee (King Clancy) who had to go to the penalty box to give his version of the goal, » Irvin said. Dad reminded him that the Rocket got an assist, which would give him the record. »
Fortunately, Richard’s offensive performance is all that we remember from this evening. It could have been different, however, because the day before, Toronto Maple Leafs owner Conn Smythe had created an uproar by offering $25,000 to the Canadiens to get Richard’s contract. Of course, this offer was turned to ridicule.
Richard is one of 13 players to have eight points in a game. The only player to do better is Darryl Sittler, who set the NHL record with 10 points (six goals, four assists) for the Maple Leafs on Feb. 7, 1976.
« During the last period, » wrote Carroll, « the 12,744 fans packed like sardines into the Forum, well aware that Richard was on course to set a new record, roared with excitement every time he touched the washer.
“It was a great night for Richard, who deserved praise for his exceptional goals. He scored them all a bit differently, so luck wasn’t a factor, and he established himself as one of the stars of the League, if he hadn’t already. »
The best quote, however, goes to Irvin Sr., who addressed Richard in the locker room after his star player’s historic performance.
« Next time you move, let me know, » Irvin said. I’ll send the whole team to help you. »
Photos: Hockey Hall of Fame