Maurice “Rocket” Richard, arguably the most significant player in Montreal Canadiens’ history, scored his 500th career goal on October 19, 1957. With that goal, he became the first NHL player in league history to reach the 500 goal plateau, setting the benchmark for then present and future elite scorers to strive towards. “‘The Rocket’ was more than a hockey player,” Habs coaching great Dick Irvin said. “It was his fury, his desire and his intensity that motivated the Canadiens.”
Richard lived up to his Rocket moniker in more ways than one. His speed was legendary, helping him to blow by many less than fleet footed opponents. His shot was deadly to the goalies that faced him, whether it was his slap shot or wrist shot. Much like a rocket, Maurice had a fiery temperament. His skill made him the target of a high amount of forechecking and shadowing, both clean and dirty. His intensity was well renowned but his temper sometimes got the best of him. He earned a high amount of scrutiny among NHL officials for on ice infractions, including St. Patrick’s day in 1955, when Richard struck a linesmen during a high profile stick swinging episode with Boston Bruins Hal Laycoe.
Maurice’s 500th goal was tallied with style. The Canadiens were on a power play in the first period. Richard was joined on the ice with Habs legends Doug Harvey, Bernie “Boom Boom” Geoffrion at the point, with Dickie Moore and Jean Beliveau up front. As the play developed, Moore passed the puck to the left of Chicago Blackhawks goalie great Glenn Hall. Beliveau received the pass, then passed it back to the slot for Richard, who one-timed it past Hall. The crowd errupted with a deafening roar for a few minutes, and would have lasted much longer were it not for the referee setting up for a faceoff at centre ice.
At the date of the 500th goal, Maurice was 36 years old, an age which was then practically unheard of for professional hockey players. He managed to play another 3 seasons after his landmark accomplishment, battling opponents and injuries along the way. While his offensive production was waning, he still managed a point per game in the playoffs, and for two of his last three regular seasons. The Rocket retired at the end of the 1959-60 season. In 18 campaigns with the Canadiens, he amassed a then league record of 544 goals, 421 assists in 978 games. During the playoffs when he excelled, he scored another 82 goals, and 44 assists in 133 games. Since Richard’s goal, there have been 38 NHLers who have joined him in the 500 goal club.