This Wednesday marks the 20th anniversary of the death of one of the biggest mythical figures of the Montreal canadiens, but also of a whole nation.
If the majority of Quebecers have learned of the death of Maurice Richard in the news or in the mass media, the granddaughters of the “Rocket” have learned in a place to say the least, unusual.
Claudia, age 9, and Olivia, 6 years old, were being cared for by friends of their parents, who have outlets at the Autodrome St-Eustache.
“I have been able to meet the public figure that was my grand-father in this moment”, remembered the elder of the sisters said in an interview with TVASports.ca.
Under a may sky, surrounded by complete strangers, Claudia was expecting to see a car race start. But this is not what the advertiser home has blown in the ears of a thousand spectators gathered at the stadium.
“It was still sun. It was around 19 h. I was eating a hot-dog mustard-cabbage. Suddenly, just before the races began, it was announced on the microphone that Maurice Richard had died. And then a minute of silence followed.”
“I heard at the microphone at the same time as 1000 other people. Eating a hot dog.”
The couple of guardians preferred to leave the parents to confirm to the girls that their great-grandfather had made the soul.
“They wanted to let our parents we learn of the death. We continued the evening as if nothing had happened. And we made the minute of silence surrounded by 1000 people. The next day, on arriving at the house, our parents have told us.”
It remains that they have absorbed the news of the death of a loved one surrounded by a crowd of strangers. Unlike the common of the mortals, their late grand-father, embodied a heroic figure of the most celebrated of the story.
And the following Monday, they were back at school.
“It has not been in place, the teachers came to get us for you immediately. After, it was known that they had shown the funeral on the tv in the classroom. It was special to learn that!”
The death of a myth, the death of a loved one
The death of the mythical flagship of the Sainte-Flannel has cast a shadow on all of Quebec. It is a story of life that was perishing, 40 years after his last lap around the track.
Claudia has done in the hours that followed the death of his grandfather, the iconic figure that he represented to the eyes of people here and elsewhere.
Shipments of letters, cards and drawings were arriving and wreaths of flowers were laid before the door of the residence of the rue Péloquin, in the heart of Ahuntsic in Montreal.
The edition of the “Journal of Montreal” the day after published photos of supporters saddened, bent on the sidewalk at the foot of the house of the deceased.
At the time, Claudia didn’t realize the scale of these marks of affection to the place of his grand-father. Because for her, in the privacy, the side of the mythological was insignificant. Non-existent.
“My sister, my cousins and I didn’t grow up with Maurice Richard the hockey player, tells Claudia. It was our grand-father. A normal person. We are a family of very humble. These are not things that we tell ourselves.
“Sunday, we were on the rue Péloquin for dinner at Grandpa’s. That was it for us. It is his death that I understood [the place which it occupies in the story].”
The stories and adventures the glory of the “Rocket”, the youngest of the family have learned by people who worked near or far. And they are being told and celebrated to this day.
“It happens frequently in public places than of people that I know of few tell stories about it,” admits Claudia. It is with a wry smile that I tell them: “you talk of my grand-father!”. It is indescribable.
“Few are those who live it.”
The Rocket in the privacy
For the hockey player, the images and the writings are inspiring. The man with hair carefully combed and his eyes “like headlights”, to use the metaphor of goalie Terry Sawchuk, worthy of a super-hero comic. A deity of the people of quebec during the era duplessiste.
In the intimacy, however, the family painted the portrait of a quiet man, pleasant and teasing. Away from the spotlight after his career, the one who was once a hot skater liked to surround himself with his children and grandchildren to the fullest.
“A pillar,” recalls Claudia. Even if you didn’t have the words to talk to her, you were the central element. My grandparents had seven children. They had a large family. All were always welcome.
“When my sister and I were all small, he would take my thumb out of my mouth and removed the pacifier from my sister. He was a prankster. It was a family life one hundred percent.”
Twenty years after the death of the legendary number 9 for the Montreal canadiens, the icon par excellence of the hockey quebec is very much alive in the imagination of those who evoke.
And if many are remembering where they were when they learned of his death, may 27, 2000, the family paid tribute to him in his own way. Discreetly.
The image of the man.