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Richard’s Rockin’ new year
MONTREAL | October 14th, 2014
Richard’s Rockin’ new year
New Year’s Day, 1958, was a swinging affair at the Boston Garden. Rather than the usual dance orchestra, though, it featured 21-year-old Henri Richard.

Younger brother to a legend, “The Pocket Rocket” had by that time begun to establish a legacy of his own, but in his third season there were still some who questioned his toughness. By the time that evening’s game had ended, the critics had been silenced.

“It’s one of those things that gets embellished every time it gets retold,” Richard recalled modestly. “The stories are a lot bigger than the event itself was at the time.”

At the midpoint of the second period, with the Canadiens and Bruins deadlocked at 2-2, the benches cleared, gloves dropped and players paired off. It took

14 minutes and the efforts of Boston’s finest before order was restored.

The 5-foot-7, 160-pound Richard had at least three different dance partners during the battle royal. Despite giving away between three to five inches and up to 30 pounds to his trio of Bruins adversaries, he came out of the melee with a winning record.           magazine’s January 13, 1958, issue notes that a half-dozen stitches were needed to close a gash on Richard’s forehead, but also makes mention of similar repairs made to Boston’s Leo Labine. It refers to Jack Bionda’s “mashed hand”, while another account claims Bionda suffered a broken nose. Only Fern Flaman, who fought Richard to a draw, seems to have emerged unscathed from his respective scrap with “The Pocket Rocket”.

“In those days you had to make your own place in the league,” Richard explained. “I was small, but I wasn’t afraid. A lot of good players couldn’t stick in the NHL because they let themselves be intimidated.”

After his tussles, Richard showed what he could do with his gloves on, notching the go-ahead goal on the way to a 4-3 Canadiens victory.

Richard led the NHL with 52 assists and recorded a career-high 80 points in 1957-58, emerging fully from his famous sibling’s shadow on the ice. Outside the arena, however, the Hall-of-Famer has always been known primarily for his relation to “The Rocket”.

“To many people, I’m still Maurice’s brother,” Richard chuckled. “Even today, people introduce me as his such. After 60 years you get used to it. I don’t think it’ll change now.”

For that one night in Boston, though, the odds were good Henri left the Garden as “Mr. Richard” in the minds of everyone who saw him perform with his gloves on, or off.

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