Henri Richard passed away last week and stories of him and his older brother Maurice are being regaled all over the hockey world. Henri “The Pocket Rocket” Richard was small in stature. However, he was big on production, guts, and leadership. It was well documented that Maurice “Rocket” Richard had piercing eyes that were said to eat through your soul. The Rocket was part of the Punch Line at one time and Henri’s fight and determination packed a big punch in a small frame.
Maurice and Henri Richard were born and grew up in the Montreal area. Maurice came into the world on Aug. 4, 1921, and almost 15 years later, Henri was born. By the time Henri was six, The Rocket made his NHL debut with the Montreal Canadiens. Henri would make his NHL debut with the Canadiens in 1955 after Maurice helped convince legendary head coach and former Punch Line mate Toe Blake to give his younger brother a shot with his team.
More recently, Daniel and Henrik Sedin were recently honored in Vancouver during what was called “Sedin Week”. The festivities kicked off on Feb. 10, when the Vancouver Canucks hosted the Nashville Predators on “Legends Night”. The twins’ jerseys were raised to the rafters at Rogers Arena on Feb. 12 and “Sedin Week” concluded on Feb. 16 with the Legacy Game.
The Rocket became the first player in NHL history to score 50 goals while also becoming the first to reach the coveted 50 goals in 50 games mark, netting his 50th goal in the final game of the 1944-45 season. Unfortunately, that was the only time he would score 50 goals in a season; his next best was 45. However, that wouldn’t stop the league from naming a trophy after him that is awarded each season to the player with the most goals.
In 1955, Nobel Prize-winning novelist William Faulkner wrote in Sports Illustrated that Maurice Richard had “something passionate glittering fatal alien quality of snakes.” Hugh Maclennan a novelist from Canada wrote of Maurice Richard, “Every great player must expect to be marked closely, but for 10 years, The Rocket has been systematically heckled by rival coaches who knew intuitively that nobody can be more easily taken advantage of than a genius. Richard can stand any amount of roughness that comes naturally with the game, but after a night in which he has been cynically tripped, slashed, held, boarded and verbally insulted by lesser men, he is apt to go wild. His rage is curiously impersonal — an explosion against frustration itself.”
Rocket Richards’ career was often defined by his boiling blood. He was described as a locomotive charging to the net to fire home a goal, most of the time carrying defenders on his back. He played in 978 games, scored 544 goals and 422 assists for 966 points. The Rocket became the first-ever player in NHL history to record 500 career goals on Oct. 19, 1957. He also compiled 1,287 penalty minutes.
Maurice was named a First-Team NHL All-Star eight times and Second-Team All-Star six times while winning the Hart Trophy as Most Valuable Player in 1946-47. Rocket Richard also led the league in goal scoring five times throughout his 18-year career. He won Canadian Press Male Athlete of the Year three times and helped the Habs win eight Stanley Cups.
The Pocket Rocket
Henri Richard was given the nickname the Pocket Rocket because he was the much younger brother of The Rocket and he was much smaller in stature. Maurice was 5-foot-10, 170 pounds and Henri was 5-foot-6, 160 pounds. Henri won Stanley Cups in his first five seasons in the NHL.
Henri was named a First-Team All-Star once and Second-Team All-Star three times. He had nine 20-goal seasons and a career-high of 30 during the 1959-60 season. Henri was more of a playmaker while Maurice was one of the purest goal scorers to ever play the game.
“All I ever had in my mind [as a youngster] was playing with the Montreal Canadiens and thinking about playing with my brother Maurice,” Henri said. “I wanted to play hockey because Maurice was playing hockey. But I never said it to anybody. When I was in school, they used to ask me what I wanted to do when I grew up. I never said, ‘A hockey player.’ I always said, ‘A plumber’ or something like that.”
Henri bested his big brother by 80 career points with 1,046. He played in 1,258 games with the Canadiens, which is the most games played by anyone in a Habs sweater. He’s the Bill Russell of hockey being the only player to win 11 Stanley Cups in league history.
Maurice and Henri played five seasons together from 1955-60, winning five Stanley Cups. However, Toe Blake didn’t want the brothers on the same line at first. Blake figured Maurice would be standing up for his younger brother too much. However, during a game against Chicago, the Hall of Fame coach was forced to play the siblings on the same line due to injuries. Henri assisted on a goal by Maurice and they played together along with fellow Hall-of-Famer Dickie Moore until Maurice retired.
During that game, Henri got in a fight while Maurice was in the penalty box. Maurice looked at his former teammate Blake with rage but couldn’t do anything. As Blake looked on to figure out if this “small” kid could hold his own, and Maurice steamed at the ice from the box, Henri won the fight, and all was okay. The Pocket Rocket registered two Stanley Cup-clinching goals in his career including the Game 7-winner against the Chicago Blackhawks. A game in which he also scored the game-tying goal.
Maurice passed away on May 27, 2000, and Henri passed on March 6, 2020.
The Sedin Twins
Daniel and Henrik Sedin have been almost joined at the hip since birth. They were born on Sept. 26, 1980. The “twins” have also pretty much been tied at the hip in their hockey careers. They’ve played on the same line for the most part since they were kids. They first came onto the global hockey radar sometime during the World Junior Championships while they were still playing with MODO of the Swedish Elite League.
Daniel recorded 25 points in 20 World Junior Championship games while Henrik registered 26 points in 20 games over the span of three tournaments from 1998-2000 and Team Sweden never made it past the semifinals. This would start a trend as they moved over to the NHL and continued to compile almost identical stats.
When Brian Burke first saw the Sedin twins play he said, “I wanted nothing to do with them. I thought they were not strong on their skates at all. The former Canucks’ general manager (GM) went on to say, “They got knocked down a lot, and I didn’t like their foot speed.” Many GMs were skeptical about the Sedins around the league before the 1999 NHL Draft, not just Burke. However, maybe “Burkie” was playing possum.
“That’s when you could first see this crazy stuff that they do, this twin stuff,” Burke said after the second time he saw them play. “They’ll pass the puck to a seemingly empty patch of ice and then right when the puck gets there, a twin skates into it.”
Burke pulled it off and Daniel and Henrik Sedin were drafted second and third overall in the 1999 NHL Draft. It seemed like everything just came together perfectly. However, as Burke told Stephen Quinn of CBC, it wasn’t such an easy fit. “It was a lot of work, I was a zombie after it was done, but I think it worked out well.” Burke was able to work some magic through a series of trades between the Atlanta Thrashers, Chicago Blackhawks and Tampa Bay Lightning to bring the twins to Vancouver.
The Canucks have never won the Stanley Cup. They’ve been to the Stanley Cup Final three times but always came up short. The Canucks went to the Final once with the Sedins and lost in Game 7 to the Boston Bruins, which in turn set the town of Vancouver off with riots and looting. Daniel recorded 20 points in 25 playoff games that year and Henrik had 22 points in 25 games. Daniel ended up minus-9 and Henrik minus-11.
Daniel won the Art Ross Trophy and Ted Lindsay Award during the 2010-11 season. The Art Ross goes to the player with the most points and the Ted Lindsay Award goes to the most outstanding player as voted by the NHLPA. Daniel also won the King Clancy Memorial Trophy in 2017-18 for the player who best exemplifies leadership qualities on and off the ice and has made a significant humanitarian contribution to his community.
Henrik won the Art Ross Trophy for the 2009-10 season, as well as the Hart Memorial Trophy as league MVP. He also won the King Clancy Trophy for the 2015-16 and 2017-18 seasons. The Sedins were often near the top of the scoring list for a solid decade.
Daniel scored 393 goals, 648 assists for 1,041 points in 1,306 games. Henrik had 240 goals, 830 assists, and 1,070 points in 1,330 games. Again the twins were not far from each other.
During “Legends Night” of Sedin Week, the Canucks and the community of Vancouver honored Daniel and Henrik for the off-ice contributions they made during their 18-year careers. These twins who have been seemingly joined at the hip since birth rode off into the sunset together on Feb. 12, 2020, being the first pair of brothers in NHL history to have their jerseys retired on the same night.
The Richards were both named to the NHL’s 100 greatest players list at the 2017 All-Star Game in Los Angeles. The Sedins were perhaps considered for that list, but that’s a tough nut to crack. Even being in that conversation is an achievement. Both sets of brothers have contributed to the history of the game on and off the ice and gave fans in Montreal and Vancouver something to cheer about for years through their illustrious careers.