On today’s date in 1972, former Montreal Canadiens legend Maurice Richard was hired to coach the Québec Nordiques hockey team in the first season of the World Hockey Association (WHA).
In 2005, the Royal Canadian Mint issued a four-coin set featuring Richard and his fellow former Canadiens Jean Beliveau, Guy Lafleur and Jacques Plante. Mint engravers used photographs supplied by the Hockey Hall of Fame to capture the players in iconic poses. Each of the 50-cent coins, which were part of the Mint’s Hockey Legends issue, had a mintage of 25,000. These sterling silver coins contain 92.5 per cent silver and 7.5 per cent copper and have a diameter of 27.13 mm and a weight of 9.3 grams. The obverse features the effigy of Queen Elizabeth II by Susanna Blunt.
On July 20, 1972, Marius Fortier, one of the six founders of the Nordiques, offered Richard a job as the team’s head coach. Richard saw this as a chance to fulfill his dream of coaching hockey and accepted the position; however, after losing his first game 2-0 on the road against the Cleveland Crusaders, Richard handed in his resignation.
He told Fortier: “It’s that simple: I’ll die behind the bench, and I love life too much to do that.”
However, Fortier convinced him to stay for another game while he found a replacement, but Richard was unable to follow the tempo during his team’s second game – this one at home against the Alberta Oilers – and it was defenceman Jean-Claude Tremblay who managed the line changes and team strategy.
On Oct. 14, 1972, La Presse reported during the game against Alberta, who were losing handily to the Nordiques after a “brilliant performance”, Richard was “nervous, shaking occasionally like a leaf.”
Richard finally quit on Oct. 14 and was replaced by Maurice Filion.