In the 1930’s, the United States and baseball had Babe Ruth, Canada and hockey had Maurice Richard.
Starring Roy Dupuis as a young Maurice Richard, the film tells the story of Richard’s rise from factory worker to right winger for the National Hockey League’s most historic franchise, the Montreal Canadiens.
“The Rocket” transports viewers into an era where working class French-Canadians were viewed as the “untouchables” of society.
On the ice, Richard battles with the unfair treatment of French-Canadians by NHL officials, coaches, players and referees.
Off the ice, Richard struggles with starting a family. His wife Lucille, played by Julie LeBreton, acts as Richard’s rock, the person he can go home to after wearing a mask of toughness all day.
Stephen McHattie plays Dick Irvin, a firecracker tempered coach of the Canadiens. Irvin at times tests and pushes Richard to his limits, testing the toughness and drive of Montreal’s newest player.
Can Richard survive the onslaught of punishment by the press and fellow players on top of the struggles of starting a family?
Overall, “The Rocket” is a great hockey movie that illustrates the toughness of the game, showcasing the historic rivalries between the Canadiens and their fellow Original-Six rivals (Boston Bruins, Chicago Blackhawks, Detroit Red Wings, New York Rangers and Toronto Maple Leafs), while chronicling the illustrious career of Maurice Richard.
Director Charles Biname does a magnificent job emphasizing the harsh treatment of French-Canadians. Perhaps the most disturbing example of their mistreatment is a chain-link fence that separates them from the “upper class.”
Biname entertains and grabs viewers with the fast-paced, hard-hitting hockey action while reminding viewers not to forget the past. Similar to African-Americans in the U.S., French-Canadians were treated unfairly for many years.
Richard’s brilliance on the ice helps unite Canada, giving hockey fans and non-hockey fans something to cheer for in the tough economic times of the 1930’s. His star power on hockey’s most historic franchise became his tool. And he paved the way for future French-Canadian players.
Winner of nine Canadian Academy Awards, including Best Actor and Best Director, “The Rocket” is available on DVD and on Netflix.