Wednesday, October 24, 2007

My Non-Encounters with The Rocket

It's beyond me to do anything resembling a full treatment of the man here and now, but this past weekend was a milestone of sorts for the famous Rocket, or Maurice "Rocket" Richard, or just "Rocket" Richard. He was the first hockey player to ever score 500 goals in his career, and last weekend was the anniversary of that event. That's him up there in the photo.

He was a prodigious goal scorer on the famous Montreal Canadiens, often dubbed as The Flying Frenchmen, of the fifties and earlier. There are not many athletes who become one nickname wonders. While many obtain nicknames, they are usually an adjunct, such as Wayne Gretzy also being known as The Great One, but when he was playing announcers would seldom have been know to say, "The Great One has the puck." They would call The Rocket just that, however; nothing additional had to be added and seldom was.

My memories of him are dim. I know that I saw him play on television, but I was young, and he was pretty well past his prime by the time I began to pay attention. However, I do recall two in-the-flesh sightings.

One Sunday afternoon, a small grocery store one street over in Montreal had a bit of a to do. Some Habs (a nickname for Les Canadiens) including himself were to be there, and they were to be giving away some hockey sticks. He was sitting on the back of a convertible, and I remember him getting a wee bit testy with some kids who wanted to snatch sticks before it was time to disperse them. But there was a big crowd, and it became obvious that little me wasn't about to get one of those sticks, so I didn't linger to watch the proceedings.

My second sighting was some years later after he retired and I was probably fourteen or fifteen years old. The Rocket happened to be at a bowling alley where I was enjoying a game with a friend. We were done and on the point of departing when I spotted The Rocket talking with a couple of kids in this near empty establishment. Well, I was English, and he was French, and I didn't know how welcome my intrusion would have been so I simply observed him briefly and continued my exit. Besides: the star culture and autograph collecting frenzy era was not quite upon us, and we tended not to accost strangers back then.

There you have it: my two non-encounters with perhaps the most famous and dynamic hockey player ever to lace up. He was a French Canadien and an iconic man for his people, but we Montreal Anglos were also in thrall with him and the team.


Turtle Guy said...

Although I'm not much of a "sports guy", I indeed admire those who accomplish a great deal in their lifetime, especially those who positively impact the lives of so many others.

Gina said...

Ok, so he is better than Wayne Gretsky? I mean, I don't really know, I'm truly asking.

mreddie said...

It amazes me that some among us have that much talent and physical skill that they go on to greatness in their sport or other endeavor. Then others have to depend on determination and time to even do a passable job. But I know that I can pull out the most determined of weeds and on most days that's enough. ec

thailandchani said...

It's interesting how paths cross, isn't it? :)

Mary C said...

I'm a newbie ice hockey fan - or at least have been a hockey fan only since the San Jose Sharks have come into existence in my corner of the world. I really like your tribute to The Rocket. I've only learned in the past few years about him. He truly was one of a kind, wasn't he?

Coll said...

Even a non hockey fan such as I, feels a wave of pride at the mention of Maurice "Rocket" Richard.

Tossing Pebbles in the Stream said...

It is always fun to see those of use who are idolized. I lived in Mississauga, way back when, I would often see players of that other Canadian team, the one in blue and white with a maple leaf on their chest.

Lanny MacDonald lived around the corner and I was just about to tag him for lunch room duty at our local school when he excaped, got traded!! I often wonder if he would have met his social/parental duty.

Of courss, the moustached Lanny was never as exciting a siting as the one they rioted over in Montreal.