2 minute read

Maurice Richard

The Richard Riot

After losing to Detroit in the 1954 championship by one game, the Canadiens were determined to turn the tables the following year. Richard was especially pleased to welcome his younger brother, Henri, to the lineup of the Canadiens for the 1954-55 season, which promised to be one of the Rocket's finest. Yet Richard's season ended in one of the most controversial episodes in sports history. In Boston on March 13, 1955, Richard was struck on the head by Bruins defenseman Hal Laycoe during a third-period power play that left the Bruins short-handed. Richard retaliated by hitting Laycoe with his own stick and, after a linesman took that away, with two other sticks that he managed to grab. Finally restrained by linesman Cliff Thompson, Richard hit the official twice before leaving the ice. Richard left the game to receive five stitches to a head wound caused by Laycoe, and Laycoe received a five-minute penalty for high sticking.

NHL president Clarence Campbell was outraged by Richard's treatment of the game officials. In a hearing held in Montreal on March 16, 1955, the league announced that Richard would be suspended for the rest of the regular season and any playoff games as well. The decision shocked Canadiens fans for its severity; not only would it put Richard out of the race for that year's top scorer award, but it would also jeopardize the team's chances for a Stanley Cup victory. Many French-speaking Canadians also saw Campbell's decision as a slap in the face by the English-speaking elites who then dominated the country's economic and political spheres.

Although he had received numerous death threats for issuing the suspension of Richard, Campbell insisted on attending the game between the Canadiens and the Red Wings at the Montreal Forum the day after the decision was announced. He was greeted with jeers and insults and after he took his seat, a variety of objects began raining down on him. At the end of the first period, one spectator walked up to Campbell as if to shake his hand; instead, he started punching the NHL president. Another fan later made his way up to Campbell and threw tomatoes at him. Despite the assaults, Campbell remained in his seat until another protester threw a tear gas canister into the audience. The bomb exploded and sent the Forum crowd scrambling toward the exits. No one was injured in the incident and the game was immediately canceled; the victory was awarded to the Red Wings, who were leading by a score of three to one.

What happened next turned the event into the Richard Riot. As fans fled the Forum, a restless crowd started to gather on the streets. Outraged by Campbell's seeming arrogance, the mob turned violent and began smashing windows and looting stores in downtown Montreal. It was not until 3:00 am that the crowd of about 10,000 people was finally dispersed, some six hours after the event began. Richard immediately went on the radio to ask his fans to restore order, and calm prevailed the next day. Privately, however, Richard blamed Campbell for deliberately inciting the crowd with this appearance at the Forum. L'affaire Richard, as the event was also known, not only ended Richard's season but contributed to the loss by the Canadiens to the Red Wings in the Stanley Cup finals by a single game.

Additional topics

Famous Sports StarsHockeyMaurice Richard Biography - Native Son Of Montreal, First Of Eight Stanley Cup Victories In 1944, Chronology, Awards And Accomplishments