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October 20, 2014

Rocket Richard: Newspaper Man

Did you know that in the early 1950s Maurice "Rocket" Richard had a newspaper column called Tour de Chapeau (Hat Trick) in the weekly paper Samedi-Dimanche. The column was actually written for him by a ghost writer who would interview the Rocket.

As you may have expected, Richard was as fiery in print as he was on the ice. And it got him in trouble.

In 1953, Richard wrote a scathing criticism of NHL President Clarence Campbell's suspension of Boom Boom Geoffrion. The Boomer had broken the jaw of New York Rangers' player Ron Murphy in a vicious stick swinging duel. Richard called the suspension a "farce" and Campbell a "dictator" and added that "if Mr. Campbell wants me out of the league for daring to criticize him, let him do it."

Mr. Campbell was not amused. He is said to have called the column "an attack on my personal integrity and an attack on the office of the NHL president." Campbell never did suspend Richard but demanded a retraction and apology in print.

The following issue had Richard's retraction, though it is believed to have been written by Canadiens general manager Frank Selke. It was the last column Maurice Richard wrote for this newspaper.

(I have seen reports that Campbell did not fine Rocket Richard and that he did fine Richard as much as $1,000 for the article.)

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