Maurice Richard voted greatest Hab of all-time in poll Staff

12/1/2009 8:27:24 PM

It doesn't seem like it would be an easy task to name the best player in the history of the Montreal Canadiens.

The fabled franchise has been around for a century, winning 24 Stanley Cups along the way, and has seen hundreds of players proudly wear the jersey with the ubiquitous H-in-the-C logo, several of them legends of the game.

Narrowing it down to the greatest of all time sounds like a daunting job.

And yet it's not necessarily a surprise that the winner - by a landslide - is the man known as "the Rocket".

For a team with so many legendary players, it is a testament to Maurice Richard's passion for the game that he received 45% of the total vote.

What is it that separates Richard from the rest of the pack?

It could be his eight Stanley Cups, including five straight from 1956-1960.

It could be the 18 seasons he spent with the Habs, a show of longevity and loyalty rarely seen in this era.

It could be that he's one of the only professional athletes ever to cause a riot (which happened in 1955 when he was suspended for the season by then-NHL President Clarence Campbell, resulting in mass hysteria in the streets).

It could be that he was the first player to score 50 goals in 50 games (there's a reason the trophy for the most goals in an NHL season is named after him).

Richard, who passed away in 2000 at the age of 78, was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1961.

At 5'10, 180 pounds, he was a powerful skater with a wicked wrist shot and an incredible flair on the ice - he was the definition of a natural scorer.

Richard was hard-nosed, fast and loaded with talent and toughness.

In 978 career regular season games (all with Montreal), the Rocket had 544 goals and 421 assists for 965 points – that was the talent. He also added 1285 penalty minutes – that would be the toughness.

Richard will always be remembered as one of the most passionate players ever in the game of hockey.

As this poll shows, almost 50 years after he last played, Richard's legacy has transcended his own time and reached an entirely new generation of Canadiens fans and lovers of the game of hockey.

The results:

Richard - 45%

Jean Beliveau - 32%

Guy Lafleur - 13%

Patrick Roy - 6%

Jacques Plante - 2%

Doug Harvey - 2%

Howie Morenz - 1%

(NOTE: With rounding, numbers add up 101%)