I Think I’m Going To Have A Green Beer And Toast The Richard Riot

I know I don’t have to go into detail about what happened on this day, March 17, in 1955. (53 years ago). On second thought, maybe a little detail. Because it was, after all, a really big deal.  rocket.jpg

It was, of course, the Rocket Richard riot in Montreal, and many feel feel it was the beginning of the French-Canadian voice being heard louder, and the germ of Quebec separation ideas.

It began during a game previously, in Boston, and the Rocket, while skating past the Bruins’ Hal Laycoe, who had previously played for the Habs and had considered himself a friend of Richard’s, clipped the Rocket on the head with his stick. Richard became quite upset and whacked Laycoe with two different sticks, breaking the second over Laycoe’s back. He even found a third stick and hit the Bruin again.

Then the biggest problem of all occurred. Richard punched the linesman who was trying to control this mightly pissed-off number nine.

League president Clarence Campbell, who was basically a puppet to the owners, and a man the French considered an arrogant English asshole, (L’asshole anglais), then pulled the shocker. He suspended the Rocket for the remainder of the regular season and all of the upcoming playoffs.

This, of course, didn’t sit well with almost everyone except the other teams and their owners. In fact, the owners had thought for awhile that the Rocket was getting too big and needed to be reigned in. He sure was reigned in.  But the angry mobs weren’t

On St. Patrick’s night, with Detroit in town, Campbell sat down with his future wife to enjoy the game. Instead, he got slapped in the face by someone, then others started pelting him with tomatoes, and then someone let off a smoke bomb.

The game, naturally, was cancelled, with the win given to Detroit, and outside, all hell broke loose. Store windows were smashed, looters looted, and in general, it wasn’t Woodstock by any stretch of the imagination.

So to wrap this up, a few different things came out of this that I find interesting. It was Montreal sports writer Red Fisher’s very first day on the job covering the Habs. Bernie Geoffrion overtook Richard to win the scoring title. The Red Wings took out Montreal in the playoffs. The Rocket went on the radio to plead for peace on Ste Catherines Street. And the smoke bomb was later found out to be police-issue. You can read what you want into that one.

Personally, I’d love to know who the culprits were who slapped Campbell, threw the tomatoes, and let off the smoke bomb. They set history in motion.

4 thoughts on “I Think I’m Going To Have A Green Beer And Toast The Richard Riot”

  1. DK,

    Right now I am royally pissed off! I had a helluva a lot of fun working on a schtick re the riot & the damn thing just `disappeared’! @#@%$@#$ I’ve been having all kinds of problems with the pc lately. In any case, basically, I was just saying that, yeah, I agree with you that the Richard Riot helped propel the on-going Quiet Revolution into a more vociferous and confrontational phase which contributed greatly to the ultimate reshaping of Quebec in all ways.

    Ha, just imagine if Anger Management had been around in those days. On top of a suspension the Rockey would probably have been compelled to attend anger management therapy sessions with an oh-so-concerned & caring counsellor. Sigh, might’ve warped him beyond recognition: no anger = no fire! We’ve got this bizarre bs going down nowadays that all anger is bad, that anybody who gets angry, dares to even raise their voice is somehow out of control and a menace to society. LOL. Of course, the really really violent ones are the `passive aggressive anger management types who don’t get mad – they get even often for things that are so trivial that they would make the Richard/Laycoe incident looks like a WW. Angry people don’t sneak around doing mean petty nasty little things, they don’t pretend they are innocent of what they are doing, hide behind secrecy & anonymity, put hoods over their heads both literally & metaphorically, and they certainly aren’t the ones who order murders or round up people for massacring etc etc, no, that’s what the cold calculating sobs do. Sure the Rocket ran amok .. as far as I’m concerned, with good reason. What Laycoe did was sneaky & dirty & cheap & he richly deserved every whack that he got. As for Campbell? Why he was just doing his job, cleaning up hockey, making sure that the thugs don’t run things (Hmmm, how is it that the entire Maple Leaf team thru the 50s & 60s weren’t banned?), that nobody gets too big for their britches as, of course, was the case with the Rocket. Well, Campbell & co sure taught him a lesson, eh? And like all good bullys, Campbell tried to morph his stupidity & essential cowardice (lack of character – not physical bravery which goes to psychological state ) and assume the guise of a brave man standing up to the mindless `anger’ of the hockey barbarians. Yeah right. And don’t get me wrong here – bullies rarely if ever act alone & make no mistake Campbell had a much much bigger and more powerful gang behind him than the rioters.

    So, my point? Anger is part of who we are, it shapes & defines us as surely as any other emotion, it has its place – maybe if more people got angry at some of the crap that goes on there would be less crap & therefore less anger, eh? Hey,in a historical context The Rocket’s outburst was good, eh?
    Sure, like any other emotion, it can be bad if misplaced or overly indulged. But, one thing for sure, I work on the premise that people do not get angry for no reason so whenever I see a very angry person I look around to see who is pushing his/her buttons. Invariably there’s more than one lurking in the woodwork, proud of being little shits & patting themselves on the back at how clever they are. But if they are caught out, why their target is the cause, he/she made them do what they did, they were only defending themselves against the `bully’ …. which is why they stay hidden because after all they are so afraid that he/she might come after them if they stand up for themselves so their target becomes whatever is convenient, whatever they say be it arrogant, pompous, pushy, loud, too–big-for-his britches, aggressive, & , well the meaning is clear.

    Was The Rocket violent? Of course he was. But I”ll take his brand of violence over Campbell’s any day. It’s the latter not the former who do the greatest harm.

  2. I think the golden boy got off very lucky for his goonmanship.

    Attacking any official should also result in a long, if not, a lifetime ban from any professional sport.

  3. Laycoe had highsticked Richard in the head during a Montreal power play. The referee signalled for a penalty to be called, but play was allowed to continue because the Canadiens had possession of the puck. Richard indicated to the referee that he’d been injured, and then skated up to Laycoe — who had dropped his stick and gloves preparatory to a fight — and struck Laycoe in the face and shoulders with his stick.

    The linesmen attempted to restrain Richard, who repeatedly broke away from them to attack Laycoe, even breaking his stick over his back. Moments passed and a second linesman Cliff Thompson, restrained Richard by holding both his arms in a lock. Richard broke loose and punched Thomson twice in the face, knocking him unconscious. Richard later said at a league hearing that he thought Thompson was one of Boston’s players.

    Given that it was Richard’s second assault on an official in that season alone, a formal inquiry took place on March 16 after which NHL president Clarence Campbell made the following statement:

    “I have no hesitation in coming to the conclusion that the attack on Laycoe was not only deliberate but persisted in the face of all authority and that the referee acted with proper judgment in accordance with the rules in awarding a match penalty. I am also satisfied that Richard did not strike linesman Thompson as a result of a mistake or accident as suggested. There is singularly little conflict in the evidence as to important relevant facts. Assistance can also be obtained from an incident that occurred less than three months ago in which the pattern of conduct of Richard was almost identical, including his constant resort to the recovery of his stick to pursue his opponent, as well as flouting the authority of and striking officials. On the previous occasion he was fortunate that teammates and officials were more effective in preventing him from doing injury to anyone and the penalty was more lenient in consequence. At the time he was warned there must be no further incident. It was too bad that his teammates did not assist officials instead of interfering with them. The time for probationary lenience has passed, whether this type of conduct is the product of temperamental instability or willful defiance of the authority of the game does not matter. Richard will be suspended from all games both league and playoff for the balance of the current season.”

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