This summer, NBC Sports’ social media team is conducting the #NHLGreatest initiative, designed for fans to choose the best player in each franchise’s history. Balloting was conducted through three platforms — Facebook, Twitter and Instagram — with thousands of votes being cast. The results of this initiative will be released throughout the month of August, in conjunction with PHT’s Team of the Day series.
1. Maurice Richard (597)
2. Guy Lafleur (372)
3. Ken Dryden (238)
4. Jean Beliveau (204)
5. Jacques Plante (93)
6. Larry Robinson (91)
You won’t see any other team with a legend like revolutionary goalie Jacques Plante listed in fifth place in its franchise history – not to mention one where Patrick Roy’s name wouldn’t even make it on the list – but then again, there’s really no team quite like the Montreal Canadiens. As iconic as many of these names are – Jean Beliveau coming in at No. 4 is too fitting – it’s easy to see why Maurice “The Rocket” Richard topped the list.
As fantastic as Richard (pictured to the left of Beliveau) was as a player, he meant just as much to the region as a symbol.
Modern reactions to suspension verdicts pale in comparison to the culturally-charged riot that broke out on March 17, 1955 following the decision to punish Richard’s on-ice outburst by making him sit out the remainder of the 1954-55 season. It was one of the darkest moments in both NHL and Canadiens history, yet it also said a lot about how much “The Rocket” meant to fans.
For the most part, No. 9 conjures up images of one of the greatest scorers in NHL history. He was the first to collect 50 goals in a season and finished his lengthy career with 544 regular season tallies and also found the net 82 times in 133 playoff contests.
He ended up with eight Stanley Cup victories in his career, which was impressive just about everywhere except maybe the Richard household (his brother Henri won a ridiculous 11 championships).
Richard remains the franchise leader in goals with those 544, though Guy Lafleur (518) and Beliveau (507) didn’t finish far behind. Richard finished fourth all-time in points behind Lafleur, Beliveau and his brother, but those numbers only matter so much.
“The Rocket” died in May 2000, yet his legacy (and that iconic glare) won’t fade anytime soon.