March 17th has a rather historic importance to the history of the NHL, the province of Quebec and Canada as a whole. It was on this day fifty years ago that a quiet rage was unleashed on Rue Saint Catherine as a violent outburst in the fabled Montreal Forum moved from inside the rink to the streets of Montreal.
While historical observers trace the beginning of Quebec's quiet revolution to the events of March 17th, just as many others claim it was just a night of wanton violence when thugs took advantage of a situation and made the most of it.
What became known as the Richard riots took place because NHL President Clarence Campbell had suspended Montreal's favourite son after some on ice violence in a regular season game four nights earlier against the Boston Bruins.
With the popular Montreal forwarded banned for the remainder of the season and the playoffs (and his bid for a scoring title left in shambles) Campbell took his usual seat in the Forum for that nights Habs/Red Wing game. Campbell quickly found himself the focal point of a city's anger. A physical assault on the President at the end of the first period, then escalated to a tear gas dispersal which filled the Forum, the crowd filing out of the rink then took to the streets trashing stores and cars seemingly at will until the Montreal Police finally got things under control many hours later.
It was an event rarely seen in Canada of the day and has become the thing of legend for Canadians to this day. Was it the spark that led to the turbulent sixties and seventies in Canada? Possibly yes, it certainly struck a chord with French Canadiens who were weary of the arrogance of the elites of Montreal of the day. But whether it indeed was the fuse of political revolt or simply the expression of disgust by a faithful fanbase it was huge day in History that really has never been repeated in Canada.
Eric Duhatshek has put together a bit of a backgrounder for us, interviewing some of the figures of the day who witnessed this date of historical importance, check it out here..
March 17th not only one of those dates for a record book but indeed for a History book as well!