The Richard Riot

A night of violence triggered by hockey but fueled by decades of resentment.

On March 13, 1955, Maurice “Rocket” Richard of the Montreal Canadiens and Hal Laycoe of the Boston Bruins were pounding each other with fists and lumber in Boston. In the melee, Richard clocked a linesman, leaving him unconscious. There was blood on the ice and boos in the stands.

Three days later, NHL President Colin Campbell banned Richard (but not the object of his ire, Laycoe) for the rest of the season, including the playoffs. “That’s the least they could do”, said Walter A. Brown, President of the Bruins. [Note from the Montreal-born Publisher: It just had to be a Bruin saying that, didn’t it?] The next night, despite being advised against it, Campbell showed up at the Forum in Montreal hoping, perhaps, to soothe local passions.

Richard was a legend among French-Canadians – the energy of his playing matched only by the passions of his fans. So when English-speaking Campbell banned Richard and then showed up in their stands, they boiled over. Hundreds of Montrealers took to the streets outside the Forum, venting their anger. The violent riot lasted two hours, leaving Ste-Catherine Street a shambles. The anger cooled, but the passion to stand up for French Canada continued to burn for years.

A very loud riot was a precursor of the tumultuous times to come, ironically referred to as the Quiet Revolution. 

Image Source: Wikimedia Commons, Conrad Poirier

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