Friday, October 19th, 2007 will mark the 50th anniversary of Maurice "Rocket" Richard's becoming the first player National Hockey League history to score 500 career goals. The goal set the standard for individual success and greatness amongst NHL players.
After scoring goals 498 and 499 two nights earlier against Toronto, the Rocket was looking for the magical 500th goal as the Chicago Blackhawks visited the Montreal Forum.
Red Fisher of the Montreal Gazette, one of hockey's greatest writers, was there that night. Then just in his 3rd year of hockey reporting, Fisher remembers the night well.
"There was a great deal of excitement among the crowd at the Forum, as there was on most Saturday nights, but in particular on this night since the Rocket was going for his 50oth. It was pretty well expected that he would score, because you always expected great things from the Rocket and you always got it."
Even though he was by then the oldest player in the game, Rocket wouldn't let his faithful fans down on this night. With the Blackhawks Ian Cushenan in the penalty box for holding at 14:42 of the first period, the Habs vaunted power play went to work. Jean Beliveau, standing to the left of Chicago goalie Glenn Hall, took a pass from Dickie Moore before setting up Richard for the one-timer. The time was 15:52.
"The great crowd of 14,000 and change at the Montreal Forum went nuts," says Fisher. "When the goal was announced, the ovation for him was a little over two minutes, and probably would have continued if the officials hadn't got the teams together and restarted the play."
Richard retired following the 1959-60 season with 544 career goals. It wasn't until March 14th, 1963 that another player, Gordie Howe, reached the 500 goal mark.
Today 39 players have reached the 500 goal plateau. Jeremy Roenick, at the time of this publishing, is knocking on the door with 497.
Here's some interesting stats about the 500 goal club:
26 of the 39 players achieved the milestone in front of a home crowd.
14 of the 39 players have scored 500 goals with the same franchise.
13 players scored their 500th goal while on the power play.
2 players, Gordie Howe and Mats Sundin, scored their 500th goal while short-handed.
Mats Sundin's goal was also the first time an overtime goal marked a player's 500th goal.
7 players entered the 500th goal club by completing a hat trick: Jean Beliveau, Wayne Gretzky, Mario Lemieux, Mark Messier, Brett Hull, Jaromir Jagr and Mats Sundin.
Interestingly, Patrick Roy, arguably the game's greatest goaltender, has allowed the most 500th career goals in league history. Three times he was victimized, by Steve Yzerman in 1996, Joe Mullen in 1997 and Brendan Shanahan in 2002.
3 players, Mike Bossy, Wayne Gretzky and Jari Kurri, scored their 500th career goals into an empty net.