Dickie Moore

Dickie Moore on cover of hockey pictorial

Richard Moore
Born: January 6, 1931 (Montréal)
Died: December 19, 2015

In the 1950s, the Montreal Canadiens were known as the Flying Frenchmen and Dickie Moore was neither.

A skilled player though an undistinguished skater, Mr. Moore did not display the stick-handling grace of Jean Beliveau, nor did he shoot the puck as hard as Bernie (Boom Boom) Geoffrion, nor did he bowl over defenders like Maurice (Rocket) Richard.

Mr. Moore lacked the superhero qualities that made his teammates legends in the hockey world. Though somewhat overshadowed, he was a superb playmaker with puck sense and good hands around the net.

“He was a grim, unflinching athlete with strong ideas of what was needed to win,” said Rejean Houle, a retired Canadiens player who heads the team’s alumni association. “If fighting was needed, Moore would fight. If playing with pain was needed, nobody had to ask him twice.”

Tough but fragile, Mr. Moore was the reliable teammate with a knack for scoring timely goals, as well as a pesky ability to upset opponents.

Dickie MooreMr. Moore, who has died of prostate cancer at 84, was known as Digger, a reference to his ability to do the hard work of retrieving the puck in the corners. By his own admission, he was a plugger, though the 5-foot-10, 168-pound left winger twice won the Art Ross Trophy as the National Hockey League’s top scorer, once more than the great Beliveau and an honour that eluded the Rocket.

He won his first scoring crown despite spending the final five weeks of the season with a cast on his left arm stretching from his fingers to his elbow.

“We played with injuries because we were afraid of losing our jobs,” he once said.

Mr. Moore had his name engraved on the Stanley Cup six times. In his 14 seasons in the NHL, his teams never failed to make the playoffs, including nine trips to the Cup finals.

The hard-driving forward helped rewrite the NHL record book. In a semifinal playoff game at the Forum in Montreal on March 25, 1954, he recorded two goals and four assists as the Canadiens whipped the Boston Bruins by 8-1. The six points set a new mark for scoring in a playoff game. The left-winger began the onslaught by scoring against Bruins goalie Sugar Jim Henry just 10 seconds after the opening face-off, also a record. (Both marks have since been surpassed.)

Mr. Moore won the scoring title with 96 points in 1958-59, which beat by one Gordie Howe’s record for most points in a season set six years earlier. Mr. Moore’s standard lasted seven campaigns until bettered by one by Bobby Hull in 1965-66.

Richard Moore was born on Jan. 6, 1931, the youngest child with eight brothers — Charlie, Bert, Eddie, Bill, Danny, Reggie, Tommy, Jimmy— and a sister, Dolly. (The hockey writer Andy O’Brien noted in a 1959 article that the boy had not been baptized until a decade after his birth, at which time he was given the middle name Winston in honour of the steadfast British wartime prime minister.) His father worked on city road crews.

“My father really governed by the steel fist,” Mr. Moore told the Hockey Hall of Fame in a 2008 interview. “He made sure we obeyed the rules.”

The family lived in Park Extension, a crowded, blue-collar neighbourhood home to many struggling families during the Depression and, later, to waves of post-war immigrants. Young Dick began skating at a local outdoor rink. At age seven, he was struck by a car while riding a bicycle. A severely broken right leg required a cast from hip to toe. He felt his thigh muscle never properly developed as a result of atrophy.

Many of the Moore children played sports. Molly, the only girl in the family, was also regarded as the best athlete, as she starred for a local women’s softball team and was a world-class sprinter who narrowly missed out on competing at the 1948 Olympics. Her sports connections led her younger brother getting a tryout with the Montreal Junior Royals, which he joined at age 16.

He averaged more than a point a game in his second season with the junior team, playing a key role as the underdog Royals defeated the favoured Brandon Wheat kings to claim the Memorial Cup as national junior champions in 1948-49.

“Son of a gun, what do you know,” the teenager was quoted as saying in the dressing room after the final game. “This is what we’ve been dreaming about for years.”

The following season he was assigned to the Montreal Junior Canadiens, once again winning the Memorial Cup. He was a hellion on ice, leading all players in penalty minutes in league and cup playoffs. He became the most publicized junior hockey player in the land, one who garnered as much praise as antipathy, as rivals despised his chippy, aggressive style. Some of the sports writers nicknamed him Chirpy, but the name did not stick.

He began the 1951-52 season with the senior Montreal Royals before getting a call-up to the parent Canadiens of the NHL just before Christmas. He recorded an assist in his debut, a victory over Boston, and also successfully pestered Bruins captain Milt Schmidt. The youngster wound up scoring an impressive 18 goals in 33 games in his rookie campaign.

A brash, out-of-control player as a junior, Mr. Moore chafed under the discipline of Canadiens coach Dick Irvin Sr. A serious knee injury — the first of several — slowed him down and he managed to score just three goals in 31 NHL games over the succeeding two seasons.

He won his first Stanley Cup in 1953 as the Canadiens defeated the Bruins in five games in the finals.

Mr. Moore emerged as one of the league’s top scoring threats only after Toe Blake took over behind the Montreal bench. He often played on a line with the brothers Henri and Rocket Richard.

The left-winger led the NHL in goals (36) and points (84) in 1957-58 despite having suffered a broken wrist requiring a cast. He did not miss a game, a perseverance all the more remarkable considering the fracture was not diagnosed until three weeks after he suffered the injury. The following season he led the league in assists (55) and points (96). The feisty forward scored five goals with 12 assists in just 11 playoff games in 1959, as the Canadiens won their fourth of what would be five consecutive Stanley Cups.

The left-winger retired before the start of the 1963-64 season, hobbled by recurring knee injuries. A year later, the Toronto Maple Leafs claimed him and he returned to add a veteran’s composure. He retired for a second time at the end of the season.

Two years later, he was back on the ice with the expansion St. Louis Blues, where he joined former teammates Doug Harvey and Jean-Guy Talbot. The Blues clawed their way to the Stanley Cup finals with the 37-year-old veteran enjoying one final hurrah, scoring seven goals with seven assists in 18 playoff games. The Blues were swept by the Canadiens and Mr. Moore retired for a third and final time.

He had scored 261 goals with 347 assists in 719 NHL games. He also added 46 goals in 135 playoff games.

A keen entrepreneur, Mr. Moore had barely launched his professional hockey career before he began investing in small businesses. While several of his teammates and his coach operated eponymous taverns, he began with three Dairy Queen restaurants in the Montreal area.

In 1961, the player opened a small business behind one of his ice-cream parlours in which he offered equipment for rent to construction companies. Dickie Moore Rentals now operates in three cities and its mobile trailers and equipment are ubiquitous at Montreal construction sites. The company’s colours are red, white and blue, the same as the Canadiens.

In 2005, the Canadiens retired Mr. Moore’s No. 12 sweater. He shared the honour with Yvan Cournoyer, the fleet forward known as the Roadrunner who wore it after Mr. Moore retired.

Mr. Moore was inducted into Hockey Hall of Fame in 1974 and into the Quebec Sports Hall of Fame in 1998. That same year, the Hockey News ranked him as one of the 50 greatest players of all time.

Mr. Moore died on Dec. 19. He leaves his wife, Joan; a daughter, Lianne; a son, John; and, three grandchildren. He was predeceased by a son, Richard K. Moore, known as Dickie Jr., who died in a car accident as a teenager. He was also predeceased by eight siblings.

One of Mr. Moore’s business interests was a golf course in Arundel in the Laurentian Mountains near the resort of Mont-Tremblant. He reconfigured the layout to make the No. 12 hole the signature one on the course, an homage to his sweater number. As well, the telephone number for his company ends with 1212.

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