Canadiens’ Max Pacioretty makes contact with Pittsburgh’s Kris Letang Saturday night at the Bell Centre.
John Kenney, Gazette
Canadiens forward Max Pacioretty will have a Monday telephone hearing with NHL disciplinarian Brendan Shanahan, presumably before the Habs fly early afternoon to Anaheim for their three-game West Coast swing with stops in Anaheim, San Jose and Los Angeles.
It’s possible Pacioretty could be suspended for his high hit Saturday on Pittsburgh’s Kris Letang, or being a non-repeat offender, he could get off with a fine. More to come on that tomorrow.
Letang returned non-concussed to score the controversial winning goal in overtime. It was the second-most famous face-bloodied comeback goal on Montreal ice, following a playoff goal scored by Habs’ Rocket Richard. That one has been described as the most dramatic goal in NHL history. I re-created that goal in May 2000 in a special Gazette section upon the death of the Rocket.
As you all discuss Pacioretty and Letang, here’s that story, with a photo from the April 9, 1952 Gazette. A footnote: Bruins goaler Sugar Jim Henry died in 2004.
THE NIGHT A GROGGY ROCKET GOT HOCKEY’S MOST DRAMATIC GOAL
Published May 31, 2000
“Suddenly everything went black, and the next thing I know, I woke up in the medical room. And I want to tell you, I was still groggy when I scored that goal. I don’t remember it clearly. My legs were all right, but my head was all foggy. I had a hazy idea of what I should do, and I did it.”
– Maurice Richard, April 8, 1952
“That goal,” perhaps better than any he had scored before, or would score in the future, defined the hockey icon we mourn, celebrate and lay to rest today.
In the seventh game of the 1952 Stanley Cup semi-finals against Boston, returning to the Forum ice concussed and bloodied, unaware of his surroundings and driven only by his courage and instinct, Rocket Richard rushed from end to end, through every Bruin, to eliminate Boston with what many consider the most dramatic goal in National Hockey League history.
Montreal Herald sports editor Elmer Ferguson described it on his paper’s front page the next day:
• “A great brown plaster covering a six-stitch cut in his forehead, around which a purpling bruise was forming, blood oozing from a deep scrape on his left cheekbone, Rocket Richard raced the length of the Forum ice, wheeling around a baffled Bill Quackenbush on the Bruins defence, cut in like a meteor and whipped an ankle-high shot past goaler Sugar Jim Henry.”
Through excerpted newspaper stories of the day, as well as reports published years later and a delightful conversation this week with Henry, the goaltender whose own career was defined by this single, transcendental moment, “that goal” we reconstruct here helped shape the Rocket’s cosmic myth.
• Today’s hero – Rocket Richard! Knocked colder than a bailiff’s heart in the second period, he came back stitched, battered, bruised and bleeding and scored the winner.
Henry arrived in Montreal with two black eyes and a broken nose, suffered in Game 6. He spent the day with his trainer, who applied hot and cold towels to his eyes to reduce the swelling.
“Yes, I had two great shiners,” Henry recalls. “I could hardly see.”
The photograph of himself with Richard shaking hands after the game, two battle-scarred veterans paying their mutual respects, is one of the most compelling in hockey.
A print of it is framed, hanging in a place of honour in Henry’s Winnipeg home.
Nicknamed “Sugar” as a boy, a sweet-toothed lad growing up in Brandon, Man., he had been a hero two seasons earlier in Montreal, saving the Rocket from serious injury.
Dumped by a Bruins defenceman deep in Boston ice, Richard slid full-speed toward Henry’s nearly immovable goal, the nets then anchored firmly to the ice.
“It just occurred to me that I couldn’t let Maurice crash into the goalpost – he would have broken his leg, or worse,” recalls Henry, now 69. “So I slid out and let his body hit mine, to protect him.
“He got up and thanked me, as did a few others on the ice. It was the greatest ovation I ever had in Montreal.”
Early in the second period of Game 7 on April 8, 1952, the score tied 1-1, Richard was flattened in a collision with Bruins’ Leo Labine, which sent him into the knee of Boston defenceman Bill Quackenbush. The Rocket was left unconscious, either from the impact with Quackenbush, or when his unhelmeted head struck the ice.
• The Rocket crashed the ice head-first and sprawled there, senseless, a thin trickle of blood staining the ice.
“I had a bird’s-eye view of that one,” Bruins defenceman Hal Laycoe said in The Habs, Dick Irvin Jr.’s excellent 1991 oral history of the Canadiens. “The Rocket didn’t see (Labine). It was a vicious upending. It was amazing that he could come back from something like that and score the kind of goal he did.”
At first it was feared Richard had suffered a broken neck, but finally he came to and was helped, rubber-legged, to the clinic. He passed out again while the team doctor wove six sutures above his left brow.
“What is it they say about those boxers who get hit on the chin early,” Richard asked later, “but fight on, and around the seventh round ask if it’s the second? Is it instinct? I guess that’s what it was with me.”
• Sensing the Canadiens’ heart was broken, the Bruins swung the momentum their way, and more than 14,000 Forum fans were resigning themselves to an inevitable loss without their leader.
And then, late in the third period, the Rocket returned to the Canadiens bench.
“When Richard came from the clinic, he told me he was all right,” Montreal coach Dick Irvin Sr. told reporters. “But he wasn’t just then.”
Yet with fewer than five minutes remaining in regulation time, and perhaps his team’s season, Irvin tapped Richard on the back.
“Rocket was squinting at the scoreboard,” linemate Elmer Lach said later. “It was obvious he couldn’t read it, so I told him it was still 1-1.”
Big Butch Bouchard, traveling on one damaged leg, leaned far forward, tapped the puck with the end of his stick, and slid it over to the circling Rocket.
“Rocket gave everybody in the league trouble,” Henry remembers.
“It was a toss-up between Maurice and Gordie Howe as to who was the best player in the league. But from the blue line in, Maurice was the greatest. He was dynamite.”
Richard scored 82 playoff goals during his career, dozens of them spectacular efforts. Now, with 3 1/2 minutes left in the game, he was a runaway freight train – even if he looked toward his final destination through glazed eyes.
The Rocket picked it up on his blade and was off in full flight. His start was near the outer edge of the big red circle, within the defensive zone, and he was in full cry in a stride or two.
“What a terrifying sight for a goaltender,” Henry says, in awe of the image even today. “There was nothing like the Rocket at full speed.”
While Bruins swung around in pursuit, Richard raced along the right side close to the boards. Experienced Bill Quackenbush moved slowly over as if to block him, but the Rocket feinted, as if to cut into the centre, and Quackenbush swung there.
“Maurice had such a wide shift,” Henry said in Irvin’s book. “Them legs of his would go apart. He just seemed to hop from one leg to the other when he made the shift, always so wide.”
The Rocket had numerous chances to pass the puck, but later said his vision was so blurred he couldn’t make out his linemates, Lach and Toe Blake.
Richard shifted swiftly, past Murray Henderson and Bob Armstrong, cut out again, eluded Real Chevrefils, then swung in like a streak around the startled Quackenbush, cut in straight across the goalmouth and whipped the puck past Henry while going full speed.
“Most people still get one fact wrong,” Henry points out. “They say the Rocket scored through my legs, but he didn’t. He put it in on my glove side. The puck only came out of the net through my legs.”
Elmer Ferguson turned to a fellow writer and muttered, “That beautiful bastard scored semi-conscious!”
Richard was mobbed by his teammates, and the Forum exploded.
“The crowd saluted the brilliant play with a roar that shook the building,” The Gazette’s Dink Carroll said. “They threw programs, coins, newspapers, overshoes. It took a squad of seven attendants five minutes or more to clear the ice.”
Billy Reay iced the 3-1 victory with an empty-net goal, sending the Canadiens to a Stanley Cup final they would lose in four straight to the Detroit Red Wings.
In the dressing room, Richard happily greeted his father, but soon collapsed in convulsions, sobbing hysterically from exhaustion, his concussion and nervous shock, before doctors sedated him.
It was two hours before he was able to leave the Forum.
Forty-eight years later, Henry is comfortable with his place in hockey history: he knows his name will forever be recognized not for one of the fine saves he made during a 435-game career, but for one goal against, and a magnificent photo of a bowed, black-eyed, nearly wordless handshake with a bloodied Maurice Richard.
The two men last met in the spring of 1999 at a memorabilia show in Boston, where they sat shoulder to shoulder signing hockey cards.
Henry scolded Richard not just for the goal, but for having scored it on Henry’s wedding anniversary, an occasion he forgot in the heat of the playoffs.
“I feel so sorry for Henri Richard and the Rocket’s family with the passing of Maurice,” Henry says.
“He was a great fella and a great player. We’re all going to miss him. We’ve all lost someone very dear to hockey.”