Sunday, April 7th, 2002
Maurice Richard will always be a part of Quebec's heart and soul. Even people
who hate hockey know who he is, what he did for the sport, the fans, politics,
and the world. He wore number nine, won nine Stanley Cups, holds phenomenal
records, and has been considered a role model for society all his life. Still,
he was uncomfortable with the effect he had on people. Rocket could not really
Throughout the French/English wars in the 1950s, the historical riot in Montreal
in 1955, his records and agility (don't forget his threatening gaze at awed
opponents), Quebec shaped its figure on him, always being by his side. Sports
legend, but also a cultural and historical figure.
When the Richard family decided to sell Rocket's items last week, the public's
very first reaction was total disbelief; while some fans remember him with
respect, others could barely hold back their tears as Americans were already
offering huge amounts for a piece of Canadian history. No Canadian individual
or organization offered to buy the items: neither the Habs, nor the Molson
Center. No companies, no nostalgic millionaires, no museums, and worst of
all, none of Canada's federal or provincial governments reacted to the auction
Diane Lemieux is the Minister of Cultural Estates and Communications of
Quebec; following the breaking news on television last week, her spokesperson
stated that "although we have been proposed to buy those items for cultural
purposes, we have no funds available for that kind of collection. We did
not want to get involved in a family's tale." Oh, please. This is a provincial
government. Rocket's government. Unbelievable and nasty.
On a federal level, Sheila Copps, Minister of Cultural Affairs, quickly found
a spotlight to announce that she would do all she can in order to keep these
items in Canada. Quebec watched anxiously as the two governments try to calm
down the whole nation.
Years, and even months ago, both governments refused offers to keep the Rocket's
estate. They denied, but the truth had to come out: Quebec media used the
front pages and first leads in TV news, accusing Cultural Affairs
ministers of simply letting go the heart of the Quebec sports nation, not
even realizing the value of such items for generations to come.
Even after his death, the Rocket still moves the English and French population.
But this confrontation is necessary and vital; Quebec Minister Lemieux did
not lose one second to block Sheila Copps' intentions.
Since Thursday night, the auction of some items have been postponed on Lemieux's
order. Of the 250 items, 47 are now considered as cultural heritage, meaning
that "the government will not allow these 47 items to be moved outside Quebec.
It is also imperative to mention that no other government, provincial or
federal, can take possession of these items. They are now listed and protected
as Quebec cultural heritage."
Museums experts strongly suggested that the Molson Center should keep a space
for Maurice Richard's items. "The items belong to the hockey fans. Even more,
the fans should be able to be in contact with those items where hockey is
present, and that place is definitely the Molson Center."
The population were relieved as news channels announced that a Cultural
Estate Commission should be established. This special Committee will
include family members of the Rocket's family, Habs organization past and
present executives, artists, and company representatives. Their task will
be to evaluate the historical and symbolic value of those items. Is this
task really possible?
As for the auction and the rest of the collection, the offer equals the demand
so far: the 1944-45 Maurice Richard autographed 50-goals-in-50-games used
stick has a bidding of $6,500.00. The Maurice Richard trophy (with skates
and pucks), interests two individuals willing to pay $10,000.00. The Maurice
Richard Hockey Hall of Fame induction ring has seven bidders for the amount
of $3,222.00. The most expensive item so far is the Rocket's jersey he wore
during the 1959 Stanley Cups championships - sweat and underarms stains included,
with 14 fans all eager to pay an incredible $23,650.00 for it. All prices
are in U.S. funds. The auction is held until May 7th, 2002.
Is money the important issue? It is not even a question to ask ourselves.
Some people are able to have a little piece of hockey history in their home
and it is a privilege only a few can have.
Instead of cherishing our dead stars' estates, why don't we record these
items right away - while our hockey legends are alive - and keep them as
historical references for the future? Regardless of who you are talking about
- Gordie Howe, Bobby Orr, Patrick Roy, Ray Bourque, or Wayne Gretzky - they
all keep dusty souvenirs in their closets. They cannot get rid of them, but
museums could protect and keep them in excellent condition forever.
Let's hope we will all keep that memorabilia close to home. Legendary hockey
players are one equal temper of heroic hearts. Watching an autographed puck
or stick behind a glass is to be able to look back upon a hockey legend's
past with satisfaction ... and it is to live twice.