MONTREAL (AP) -- Even in death, Maurice Richard inspired outbursts of admiring applause from the thousands who came Wednesday to say goodbye at an emotional funeral service.
Many arrived at the ornate Notre-Dame Basilica looking much like they would turn up to see a game -- wearing Montreal Canadiens jerseys and caps, jeans, even cameras draped around their necks.
As 1,500 fans crowded inside to join 1,200 family, friends and dignitaries, hundreds more milled around outside to watch the 80-minute service on a large screen.
The funeral for Richard, who died Saturday at 78 after a long battle with abdominal cancer and Parkinson's disease, attracted a who's who of hockey and politics rarely seen together in one setting.
Prime ministers, Quebec premiers past and present, as well as hockey stars from at least seven decades were among those who paid tribute to the man whose on-ice exploits thrilled all of Canada from 1942 until 1960.
Mourners broke into spontaneous applause for Richard after the homily and after his son Maurice Richard Jr. spoke.
There also were bursts of polite applause throughout Richard's hour-long funeral procession downtown and as his casket was carried in and out of the church.
Inside the basilica, the smell of incense hung heavy in the air during the simple service and Roman Catholic Mass.
Jean-Claude Cardinal Turcotte, archbishop of Montreal, praised Richard in his sermon.
''Maurice Richard was an intense man, passionate, true to his values and convictions,'' Turcotte said. ''His passing was felt by people across the country. It was like losing a friend.''
Richard Jr. told the mourners the family has felt nothing but love over the last few days. He took special note of the 115,000 people who paid their respects to his father on Tuesday as he lay in state at the Molson Centre.
''I'm sure that if he's watched from above what's happened over the last two or three days, he would be very proud,'' Richard Jr. said.
Brainerd Dispatch ©2013. All Rights Reserved.