May 25, 2014

Former Referee Frank Udvari, 90, Recalls Rocket Richard Riot

90 year old former NHL referee Frank Udvari recently recalled the night Rocket Richard went berserk, leading to the infamous Richard Riot of 1955.

"I remember the play like it was yesterday," he says.

On March 13, 1955, the Rocket came tearing down the ice toward the home team's net. But Boston Bruins defenceman Hal Laycoe's stick caught the Canadiens star above the eye, Udvari recalls.

Udvari's arm shot up immediately, signalling a delayed penalty against Laycoe.

Richard's enraged face was crimson with gushing blood as he curled around the net and charged at Laycoe.

"I told him, 'I got it, Rock. I got it,' " Udvari says.

The Rocket would have none of it.

Richard went berserk, swinging his stick furiously at Laycoe, striking him repeatedly across the head and shoulders.

A linesman, Cliff Thompson, intervened only to be punched twice by Richard, before Thompson fell unconscious to the ice.

Udvari assessed Richard a match penalty.

Following a hearing, NHL president Clarence Campbell slapped the Rocket — a repeat offender — with a lengthy suspension.

The sentence stretched through the regular season and into the playoffs.

Campbell's office was deluged with hundreds of angry phone calls from the Canadiens' faithful, some callers even uttering death threats.

But Campbell was undeterred. He attended the Canadiens' next game at the Montreal Forum. And his presence sparked a riot in the arena which eventually spilled onto the streets.

Thirty-seven people were injured, 100 people were arrested and hundreds of thousands of dollars in property damage resulted as the furious mob overturned cars, smashed windows and set fires along Ste-Catherine Street.

Here's the full story.

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