FISHING, SOFTBALL AND GOLF
Richard puts in some time in the summer as a sales representative for the Petrofina Company, a Belgian concern which operates gas stations in Canada, but a large part of every day goes to keeping himself in shape. It is his custom to take off on several three-day fishing trips when each hockey season is over. This is pure relaxation, but after that he plays his sports with an eye to preparing himself gradually for the coming hockey campaign. In June and July he plays some softball but principally he golfs. A 10-handicap man, he responds so well to competition that for the last two seasons he and Elmer Lach have won the tournament for major league hockey players which takes place before the big Canadian golf tournament, the La Batt Open. Halfway through July he switches to tennis and handball. "I think they are very good sports for sharpening the eye and strengthening the legs," he told a friend not long ago. "When it is time to go to training camp, I find it not too hard to get into condition."
Richard has mellowed discernibly in recent years. In a relaxed mood he can be wonderful company, intelligent in conversation and very responsive to old friends. His shyness with strangers has lessened somewhat and he meets people far more gracefully. He has even displayed the edges of a dry sense of humor. Not long ago the exchange for Richard's telephone number was changed to RIverside. "Just dial RI," he said with a straight face to a rural photographer who had forgotten the exchange, "RI...for Richard." An old friend who stood by couldn't believe his ears.
TOWARD THE 400TH
Most of these relaxed moments, it goes without saying, take place from April to September. Then another hockey season is on, and while Richard today may be a shade less volcanic than formerly as he moves steadily toward his 400th goal, he still burns with a fierce sense of purpose. During a team slump or a personal scoring drought, he is still a good man to avoid. Silent and seething, he builds up intensity to such a pitch that, eventually, it must explode. Sometimes the Rocket explodes all over the place, in fights, in arguments with referees, in overly aggressive if fruitless hockey. Sooner or later, though, he will explode with a splurge of dramatic goals. On these evenings, it is an experience to be in Montreal, for it is then that the Forum roars like one huge happy lion, the most jubilant hullaballoo you can hear in the sports world. It is not an extravagant tribute. After all, of all the great athletes of our time, none has played his game with more skill, more color, more competitive fire and more heart than Maurice Richard.
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