Skip to main content


Henri Richard’s family announces Habs legend had CTE

Montreal Canadiens Henri Richard - The Canadian Press

Former Montreal Canadiens legend and Hockey Hall of Fame member Henri Richard tested positive for chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or CTE, the brain-withering disease linked to repetitive brain trauma in contact sports, a researcher and Richard's family announced Wednesday morning.

The Boston-based Concussion Legacy Foundation said Richard becomes the 16th known former NHL player and the second member of the Hall of Fame, after Stan Mikita, to have tested positive for CTE. 

Dr. Stephan Saikali from Universite Laval in Quebec City confirmed Richard was posthumously diagnosed with stage 3 (of four) CTE.

“I hope my father’s brain donation and diagnosis will lead to more prevention efforts, research, and eventually a CTE treatment,” Richard’s son, Denis, said in a statement. “I want people to understand this is a disease that impacts athletes far beyond football.” 

Richard died in 2020 at the age of 84. At the time of his death, Richard’s family said he had suffered from Alzheimer’s disease.

Other NHL players who have been diagnosed with CTE include Bob Probert, Derek Boogaard, Jeff Parker, Wade Belak, Larry Zeidel, Reggie Fleming, Rick Martin, Ralph Backstrom, Steve Montador, Zarley Zalapski, Todd Ewen and Dan Maloney. Four former junior hockey players, who all died of suicide before the age of 30, have also tested positive for the disease.

“I played with Henri. We won two Cups together. He fits none of the easy stereotypes, checks none of the easy boxes,” former Canadiens goalie Ken Dryden said in a statement.

“Played in a different time, old-time hockey, all the fights? Not Henri. Big hitter? Not Henri. Like Stan Mikita and Ralph Backstrom, he was a great skater, and physical, but he had a playmaker’s mind, and played that way. But all those hits to the head. We have to understand, whatever the sport, a hit to the head is not a good thing.”

Richard won 11 Stanley Cups in his 20-year career with the Canadiens. The younger brother of Maurice “Rocket” Richard, he was born in 1936 in Montreal, and joined the Canadiens in 1955, playing his entire NHL career with the team.

According to, Richard had 19 fights over his entire career. He played in 1,258 regular-season games, compiling 358 goals, 688 assists and 928 penalty minutes. 

While the National Football League admitted in 2016 that a link exists between repeated brain trauma suffered in hockey and long-term neurological disorders, the NHL has consistently rejected the connection.

In April, NHL commissioner Gary Bettman told National Public Radio in an interview that no such association has been established.

"We listen to the medical opinions on CTE, and I don't believe there has been any documented study that suggests that elements of our game result in CTE,” Bettman said. “There have been isolated cases of players who have played the game [who] have had CTE. But it doesn't mean that it necessarily came from playing in the NHL.”

The NHLPA has rejected Bettman’s stance.

“It goes without saying that trauma to the brain can be harmful and we recognize, as the [U.S.] Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has cited, that the research to date suggests that CTE is caused by repeated trauma to the brain, including concussions and sub-concussive events,” the players union wrote in a statement to TSN in 2019.

The NHL in 2018 settled a concussion-related lawsuit filed by more than 100 former players after a judge refused to approve the case to move forward as a class action.

Several former players – including Montador’s family – are continuing to pursue individual lawsuits against the league.