Tuesday, November 3, 2009

A Cultural History of Maurice Richard

As any hockey fan knows, Maurice Richard was the highest-scoring NHL player of his era, the first to achieve the feat of fifty goals in fifty games. In his eighteen years with the Montreal Canadiens, Richard’s determination, intensity, and will to win drew fans and admirers. But Richard was revered as much for what he represented off the ice.

“The Rocket” (before Rod Laver and Roger Clemens) inspired poems, novels. short stories, biographies, songs, movies, plays, kids’ books and comic strips. His face adorned clothing, toys, household goods, hockey equipment, and ads from cars to soups. Streets, parks, and public squares bore his name, and boasted his statute. With an influence that extended beyond his playing years, he became a symbol in Quebec and a hero across Canada (and beyond).

We speak with cultural historian Benoit Melancon whose book, The Rocket: A Cultural History of Maurice Richard (Greystone Books, 2009) exhaustively and uniquely chronicles the Maurice Richard – the man and the myth.

Of the book NPR’s “Only A Game” said, “…“open-minded folks will be intrigued by Malencon’s exploration of the ways in which people attribute all sorts of cultural significance to the accomplishments and personalities of champions like Richard”.