Tag Archives: Maurice Richard Jr

The Rocket And The No. 9 Thing

Recently on Hockey Night in Canada, host Ron Maclean told viewers a little story about how Maurice Richard asked to change his number from 15 to 9 during the 1942-43 season in honour of his new baby girl Hugette, who weighed in at 9 pounds.

Wikipedia also says the same thing. Along with everywhere else you look.

But the number 9 must have already held a soft spot in Rocket’s heart, because as you can see in the lineup below, he was wearing it when he was playing senior hockey, a year before he joined the big club.

Is it possible that the traditional claim from Maclean, books, and the Internet, about choosing 9 because of his baby’s weight at birth, is strictly something that took on a life of its own over the years?

Not that I want to throw cold water on the time-honoured story.

Here’s my program from the 1941-42 season in the Quebec Senior Hockey League, featuring a game between the Montreal Senior Canadiens and the Montreal Royals. Further down, the Rocket in the lineup for the Senior Canadiens, a year before he joined the Habs, and with his number 9.

Maybe he simply liked the number, and along with his 9-pound baby, convinced himself that he wouldn’t mind having it again.

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Also playing on this particular night for the Montreal Royals was Bill Durnan, who of course became a legendary goalie for the Canadiens shortly after, from 1943 to 1950, and Glen Harmon, number 12 for the senior Canadiens, who joined the Habs the following season and played for them from 1942-51.

Below, from my scrapbook, the Richard family circa 1958.

From left to right, Maurice Jr, Hugette, Lucille, dad and Suzanne, Norman (who’s my age, and whom I spoken to on the phone a couple of times), and Andre. Two others, Paul and Jean, had yet to arrive.

Hi Normand, You Don’t Know Me But…

JIM WITHERS: FOR USE WITH STUBBS COLUMN IN EDITIONS OF MONDAY, MARCH 15, 2010: Canadiens legend Maurice (Rocket) Richard tapes a stick in the Canadiens dressing room during the 1959-60 season, the final season for the Habs great, watched by sons Normand (centre) and Maurice Jr. A new bilingual, two-DVD set featuring the Rocket is being released now, shortly before the 10th anniversary of his death, and Maurice Jr. says he's amazed at the enduring popularity of his late father. CREDIT: DAVID BIER STUDIOS, GAZETTE FILES

The Rocket tapes his stick during the 1959-60 season, while sons Normand and Maurice Jr. watch carefully.

Normand is the same age as me, and when I was living in Montreal a couple of years ago, I phoned him. Twice.

The first time I called, I opened with “Hi Normand, your dad was my hero!”, or something like that. The second time was more along the lines of, “Hi, it’s that guy again who called that other time.”

Normand was very nice and seemed just fine with the fact that some stranger was calling. I appreciated that.

Both times I called we talked for about 20 minutes or so, and during the second chat he agreed to meet me for coffee, although he said he was driving a friend’s car to Florida the next day and we’d have to wait until he got back.

I was very excited. I wanted to tell him that when I was a kid, I often wondered what it would be like to be the Rocket’s son. And I wondered if we’d need menus.

I wanted to be Normand’s friend back then, and I wanted to be his friend now.

But it wasn’t to be. Mainly because when he got back from Florida, I was back in Powell River.

La Famille Rocket

The Maurice Richard family. from left – Maurice Jr., Hugette, Lucille, Suzanne on Rocket’s lap, Normand, and Andre on the floor with his teddy bear. This is circa 1958. Two other boys, Paul and Jean, would round out this family.

I’ve read that Maurice Jr. was a fine hockey player, his nickname was “The Little Rocket,” but he became the subject of adults in the stands who gave him grief for not being as good as his dad. Normand was a decent athlete too, but also heard nasty remarks because he happened to be the son of such an icon. For whatever reasons, when it comes to certain adults or other parents in the stands, some can be absolute imbeciles.

Wondering About Normand

From my archives – May 7, 2008

The young fellow posing with the Rocket is Normand Richard, Rocket’s second oldest son (behind Maurice Jr.). Normand is my age within a few months, and I thought he was the luckiest kid in the world. Imagine being the son of the great Maurice Richard!

I used to daydream about what it would be like being the Rocket’s son, about how Normand would go to  games at the old Forum and sit in special seats reserved for his family and watch his dad, the hero of so many, scoring the big goal with thousands of people cheering his name.

I’d wonder what it would be like at home, having dinner and listening to stories about life in the NHL and games in the other five cities. I thought about the other Canadiens who would visit the house, and the fishing trips Normand would go on with his dad.

These were daydreams an eight or nine year old boy dreamed.

When the great Rocket passed away in 2000, I watched the funeral on TV, and I saw glimpses of Normand. He was fifty then, on crutches from a broken leg, and his face held indescribable grief. I’d heard many times over the years how close he had been to his dad, and it was very sad to see him saying goodbye.

For a lot of reasons, I’ve felt a bond with Normand, and I really love this picture at the top of this page.