The Maurice "Rocket" Richard Trophy was donated by the Montreal Canadiens to the NHL in 1999, and was first awarded at the end of the 1998–99 season. It is one of the newest of the NHL's trophies and is named in honour of the legendary right wingerMaurice "Rocket" Richard, who spent his eighteen-season career with the Canadiens. He led the NHL in goal scoring five times and was the first NHL player to reach the 500 goal milestone. In 1944–45, Richard became the first player in NHL history to score 50 goals in one season, doing so in just 50 games, the latter feat only achieved by a handful of players since then. However, the scoring title eluded Richard, and the closest that he got to it was in 1954–55.
Although the Art Ross Trophy given to the NHL's leading points scorer often wins the Hart Memorial Trophy as league most valuable player, only Alexander Ovechkin and Corey Perry have won both the Richard and the Hart in the same season; Ovechkin has done so twice, in 2007–08, and 2008–09. Eleven players have won the Hart in the same season in which they led the league in goals before the Richard Trophy was first awarded.
Unlike the Art Ross Trophy, there are no tiebreakers for the Richard Trophy. As a result, it is possible for several players to share the award, such as when the 2003–04 season featured a three-way tie between Jarome Iginla, Ilya Kovalchuk and Rick Nash. The second time there was a tie for this award was in the 2009–10 season when both Sidney Crosby and Steven Stamkos scored 51 goals to win this award. Rick Nash is the youngest player to have won the trophy, being 19 years old upon receipt. Alexander Ovechkin is the only player to have won the trophy three times.