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New Champlain Bridge to be named after Maurice "Rocket" Richard

11/03/2014 11:46 EST | Updated 01/03/2015 05:59 EST
The new bridge that will connect Montreal to the south shore and replace the aging Champlain Bridge, could be named after hockey great Maurice Richard.

The bridge was originally named after French explorer Samuel de Champlain.

Montreal newspaper La Presse reported on the weekend that Federal Infrastructure Minister Denis Lebel will announce the name of the new bridge on Dec. 9, a nod to The Rocket's jersey number nine.

According to La Presse, Lebel has the backing of Prime Minister Stephen Harper, who is also a hockey historian.  

Richard was a historic figure on and off the ice

Maurice Richard was known for his fiery demeanour on the ice.

He played on eight Stanley Cup winning teams with the Montreal Canadiens.

Richard was named to the Order of Canada, the Hockey Hall of Fame, and was honoured with a state funeral when he died in 2000.

But the plan to name the bridge after the hockey icon is facing some opposition.

"Why change the actual name of the bridge? Why remove Champlain from that name?" said Benoît Melançon, author of The Rocket: A Cultural History of Maurice Richard.

Melançon told CBC's Daybreak that Champlain is an important historical figure.

He said he has yet to see any arguments why the name of the busiest bridge in Canada should be changed.

Melançon said it doesn't appear as if federal officials consulted with historians or with Quebec's toponomy commission on the name change.

Former Hab says Richard symbolic for Quebecers

Former Montreal Canadiens player Mathieu Darche said people can make the case for a lot of different names for the new structure.

But he said the choice of Maurice Richard is as good as any.

"The respect he commanded, the desire to win, and all that. It's a nice example to follow," Darche said.

He said Richard's importance extended beyond the ice, into Quebec society.

"For some of the French community, from what we read, the NHL used to be very English dominated, and he stood up for himself."

Maurice Richard Jr. said naming the bridge after his father would be a great honour.

He recognizes the name change is only a rumour, but he knows it will be controversial.

"If we remove the name of Champlain, I agree completely that we should name the new bridge after my father," Richard said.

"As to whether we should remove the name of Champlain, that's beyond my control."

Aside from the debate over the name, Darche had one wish for the new bridge.

"Whatever they name it, we just want a bridge that will hold up."

What would be your choice of name for the new Champlain Bridge?

Comment below or Tweet us @cbcmontreal

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