Shown often on Facebook, other websites, and on TV before and during game one of the Habs-Bruins series was the iconic photo of Rocket Richard and Sugar Jim Henry shaking hands after one of the greatest playoff goals ever scored.
It even hangs on the wall of the TD Garden in Boston.
I have some slight connections regarding that famous photo that was taken by La Presse photographer Roger St. Jean, but first, a brief look back at the story behind it.
It was the second period of the seventh game of the 1952 Cup semi-finals between Montreal and Boston, on April 8th at the Forum, when the Rocket collided with rugged Bruins d-man Leo Labine, followed by a headfirst plunge into Bill Quackenbush’s knee.
Richard lay motionless on the ice, folks in the building thought his neck may have been broken, and blood flowed from his forehead.
Richard was taken to the infirmary in the Forum where he was applied stitches and probably smelling salts. Slowly he came around, and in the third period he got up from the table against the doctors’ wishes and made his way back to the bench.
On the bench, Elmer Lach told him the score was tied 1-1 with four minutes to go, Rocket told coach Dick Irvin that he was okay, and Irvin sent him out.
Rocket then proceeded to take the puck in his own end, ducked by the first forechecker, eluded the two other Bruins’ forwards, held off Quackenbush with his left arm as he swooped in, fooled the other defenceman Bob Armstrong, and came in on Sugar Jim Henry, who himself had suffered a broken nose and two black eyes earlier in the game.
Henry dove, Rocket pulled the puck aside and blasted it home, which won the series for the Canadiens.
It was just after, when players were shaking hands, that the photo was taken.
Back in the dressing room, Rocket sat unsmiling and quiet, and suddenly broke down. The doctor put a needle in his arm, and it was two hours before he was in shape to get up and finally leave.
Rocket had scored that series-winning goal while being semi-conscious.
I decided, when I was 13, that I needed an 8 x 10 glossy of the Rocket and Sugar Jim Henry so I went right to the top. I wrote a letter to La Presse and it ended up on the desk of editor-in chief Gerard Pelletier.
And who is Gerard Pelletier, you might ask? Well, aside from being editor at the Montreal French-language daily, and according to Wikipedia, he, his buddy Pierre Trudeau, and Jean Marchand were recruited by Prime Minister Lester Pearson to help derail the rising Quebec separatist movement.
Later on, Pelletier would become a cabinet minister in the Trudeau government, and would eventually take the role of ambassador to France, and then ambassador to the United Nations. He was also awarded the Order of Canada.
So as you can see, he was quite a big shot.
I think it was mighty nice of him to write to me, considering his paper had been on strike. And yes, he did pass my letter on to the sports department, because at some point, my 8 x 10 glossy showed up at my house.
Indirectly related to the goal –
One of my 75 Group two, 1944-64 Montreal Canadiens Bee Hives, Paul Masnick, who played a part, sort of, in that picture.
Paul Masnick was a journeyman centre who was with the Canadiens from 1950 to 1954 before going to Chicago and then Toronto.
In total, he played 161 games with Montreal. And it was because of him, indirectly, that there is the famous photograph.
In game six of the 1952 semi finals, it was Masnick who scored the winner on Sugar Jim Henry off a Doug Harvey rebound. This led to game seven, when the Rocket, coming back on the ice after being bloodied and knocked unconscious, scored the big goal which eliminated Boston and got Montreal into the finals against Detroit.
And it was after this Boston series that Masnick helped win, that the famous photo was taken.
And today –
Have a look at that huge framed picture behind Rocket and a couple of fellows at his appliances shop, the one of Rocket and Sugar Jim Henry.
That very picture, which measures 34″ x 44″, now hangs on a wall in my office!