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Three at the top are a crowd
Maury Allen
December 04, 1961
In the hottest cold war of many a year, Toronto, New York and Montreal push and shove one another for the NHL championship
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December 04, 1961

Three At The Top Are A Crowd

In the hottest cold war of many a year, Toronto, New York and Montreal push and shove one another for the NHL championship

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Henri gives Maurice (the oldest child) little credit for his own hockey playing. "Maurice is more like an uncle than a brother. He is 15 years older. I teach myself everything," he says proudly. Henri was 19 when he joined the Canadiens in 1955. "Henri helped Maurice more than the other way around," says young Selke. "He has fantastic speed. He made Maurice dig hard to keep up. Nobody can get the puck like he can. He has incredible stamina and moves as fast in the third period as in the first."

"I start to skate before I walk," says Henri. "Maybe even before I talk."

"He still doesn't talk," says Toe Blake. "We didn't hear a word out of him for two years. I told a reporter one time I didn't know if he spoke French or English because I never heard either. He's improved, but I wouldn't describe him as gabby."

"I just wanted to play for the Canadiens. I spent all my time skating, not talking," says Henri, who earns $16,000 a year. "I would play for nothing."

At 15, Henri was playing for a Montreal junior team in Toronto. "Maurice was a big name then," he says. "Everybody knew The Rocket. One day I read the Toronto paper. Somebody called me Pocket Rocket. In those days I would not tell anybody he was my brother. 'We just have the same name, eh? We are not related,' I would say. Now I don't mind the name Pocket Rocket."

The name has, in fact, become a badge of honor on its own. "Henri will never be the scorer his brother was, but he's a better mechanical hockey player," says a top Montreal official. "He's a clutch player," says Toe Blake. "He gets a goal when you need it most."

There is a pleasant custom at Toronto's Maple Leaf Gardens, home ice of the Maple Leaf fans—a custom of hailing an outstanding player on each team as the star of the evening. In a recent bitterly contested game at the Gardens, Montreal lost by a heartbreaking 3-2. Throughout the game, Henri Richard had performed with his usual effectiveness, his body swinging gracefully along the ice, his large No. 16 visible wherever the puck happened to be. Like the rest of the Canadiens, he was crestfallen when the game ended in Toronto's favor, and he sat sullenly on the bench waiting for the evening ritual to be done. "For Montreal," came the star-hailing announcement at last: " Henri Richard!"

Henri skated to the center of the ice, his head down, his stick held high at the waist, as another Richard had often done on another day. The motion was effortless, the skating fluid, the grace something you would expect less at a hockey game than an ice ballet.

"Hell," said a Montreal newsman, watching the scene from the security of the press box. "Why should he be the game star? He didn't even get a goal."

It was a good question. But the answer may be that on the Canadiens everyone is a star.

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