Maurice Richard (Extraordinary Canadians)
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Biography from "Great Canadians" series by Charles Foran of hockey legend Maruice "The Rocket Richard".
But the opposite is actually the case. Another essential truth about his relationship with Quebec is being re-enacted. By abiding almost four minutes of standing ovation, he is doing what he has done since he was a young man: volunteering himself to a cause, accepting that he is part of something larger, and so must bear burdens and fight his own nature. He has always accepted that, when need be, he would play the role of community avenger, secular saint, nationalist icon, statue, name on an arena or trophy, token goodwill ambassador for the Canadiens (a job he resumed in 1991, ending his protracted feud), and, lately, great Québécois, one who has done so much, been put through so much, and emerged—like the society, the province, the people in the Forum that night—with dignity and language, pride and identity, intact.
If the arrangement didn’t much alter the reality that the affluent wound up closer to the ice and the marginal farther away, it did at least eliminate the wire barriers, with their heavy symbolic suggestion. Had a particular athlete from another team in Montreal decided to attend a hockey game in the fall, he would certainly have registered the psychic weight of chicken-wire fencing. Twenty-seven-year-old baseball player Jackie Robinson, then an outfielder for the Montreal Royals of the Class AAA International League, brought home a championship that season through his powerful batting and flawless fielding.
Runs a literal translation. “Sometimes, it’s like them educated people and me … we don’t live in the same country. They talk better than me! They know more than me! But I bet they gave up tryin’ to score long ago! ” Finally, there’s the 1977 play Les Canadiens by Toronto author Rick Salutin. In it, a mother explains who the great Richard is, her monologue bilingual and imbued with the rhythms of Catholic prayer: Dieux du Forum, Forum Gods! Oh you, gloire à toi, Maurice. Oh Rocket, aux pieds longs, Tu es le centre de la passion Qui régénère notre nation And you showed us the way and a light and a life.
We were out on the Blind River catching ugly fat catfish, bottom-feeders who bit on any lure and seemed to jump into the boat without needing to be tricked, and talking about this and that. With me, mes oncles spoke English, clear but accented; with each other, le français, nasally and singsong, as my mother did with her sisters. We mostly talked about the Habs, who’d won the Cup again that spring, after losing the previous season to the Bruins, which had been bad, though not as épouvantable as back in ’67, when they’d lost to the Leafs, which remained calice and maudit tabernacle—whatever those words meant—six years later.
They could only bless themselves in thanks—au Nom du Père, in the Name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit—that it wasn’t them piling on the suitcases and bags for the slow horse ride downscale to the “slums” of St. Henri, where rents were cheaper and apartments shoddier still. Joseph Henri Maurice was born on August 4, 1921, in that Gaspé household on Mentana Street. He was a healthy baby, with clear eyes and a full head of hair. Onésime got hired not long after as a menuisier, a woodworker, by the Canadian Pacific Railway, and was assigned to their massive Angus Yards off Iberville.