Hockey Hall of Fame - Stanley Cup Journals: 30
The Stanley Cup Journal

In parts of three NHL seasons with the Montreal Canadiens, Gerry Heffernan played 83 regular season games, scoring 33 goals and 35 assists for 68 points. In 11 playoff contests, he added 3 goals and 3 assists.
(Imperial Oil-Turofsky/HHOF)
When Gerry Heffernan first played in the NHL, it was prior to the fabled Original Six era. There were seven teams in the league, no goaltender wore a mask, only one player wore a helmet and players used wooden sticks with straight blades.

It was a different era. The 1940's produced some of the most amazing hockey imaginable and some of the more unusual circumstances. Gordie Howe and Maurice Richard emerged as stars while the sound of exploding mortar shells echoed from overseas.

Gerry Heffernan was born in Montreal, Quebec in 1916. A good skater, he never dreamed of playing in the NHL. His goal was to win the Allan Cup, awarded to the top senior team in Canada. After a year playing hockey in England, Gerry re-joined the Montreal Royals and got to the Allan Cup finals three times without success. In 1941-42, the Montreal Canadiens summoned Heffernan's entire line, which included centre Buddy O'Connor and leftwinger Pete Morin. Known as the 'Razzle Dazzle Line,' the trio performed very well in the big league. Still slim today at 88, Heffernan laughs, "I was the biggest of the lot at 155 pounds." In the 1942 playoff semi-final, Gerry scored twice against Detroit but the Red Wings eliminated the Canadiens with two wins in the best of three series.

Gerry's son Dan, daughter-in-law Barbara and granddaughter Annie joined the Stanley Cup champion at his Moraga, California home. (Mike Bolt/HHOF)
After being a regular during the 1941-42 season, Heffernan was back with the Royals in 1942-43, although he was called up for two games in the playoffs that spring.

1943-44 was a spectacular season for the Montreal Canadiens, and Gerry Heffernan was a big part of the line-up. "Our line carried the team somewhat at the beginning of the season," Gerry remembers. He scored 28 goals and 20 assists in 43 games to help the Montreal Canadiens finish the season in first place, 25 points ahead of second-place Detroit. "We didn't lose a game at home all season," remembers Gerry. In fact, the Canadiens lost just 5 games during 1943-44.

"In the first round, we played Toronto and we lose the first game in the Forum," recalls Heffernan. "Fans started yelling, 'Fake! Fake!'"

After losing the opening game 3-1, Montreal got back into contention with a 5-1 victory in Game 2. "The Rocket scored five goals and we won," Gerry smiles. "In the next day's paper, not the sports section but the front page of the whole paper, they had a big headline that said, 'Rocket 5, Maple Leafs 1.'"

Although able to boast of being a Stanley Cup winner, Gerry's longtime sporting passion is golf.
(Mike Bolt/HHOF)
Montreal took the next two games in feisty contests that resulted in scores of 2-1 and 4-1. Gerry Heffernan scored the opening goal of the fourth game. The Canadiens added an exclamation mark to the elimination of the Maple Leafs by burying Toronto's best 11-0 in Game 5. Gerry picked up an assist on the sixth goal; Toe Blake's first of two on the night. During the dying seconds of the game, the Leafs' Don Webster engaged Gerry in a scrap that resulted in both sitting out roughing minors as the final buzzer sounded.

The Canadiens faced Chicago in a showdown for the Stanley Cup. Game 1 was a 5-1 Montreal victory with Heffernan assisting on Ray Getliffe's second period goal. Curiously, Gerry didn't dress for the remainder of the playoffs, which Montreal won in succession 3-1, 3-2 and 5-4. The Canadiens won the Stanley Cup at home after Toe Blake scored in overtime in Game 4.

"They gave us this plate," Gerry said, showing a sterling silver souvenir of the Cup win. "They started making rings later on."

Gerry Heffernan retired from the NHL after the playoffs. He re-joined the senior Montreal Royals and played two final seasons before leaving the game to start a business career. "I figured I could make more money in business, and I did," he said. Heffernan was a topnotch insurance salesman, who enjoyed such success that virtually once a year, he was able to take his late wife Kathleen to England, where she had been born. "There's a song called, 'I'll Take You Home Again, Kathleen.' I used to sing that to her," Gerry sighs. "I took her home 36 times."

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Heffernan and his 'Razzle Dazzle Line' teammates made short work in helping to eliminate first Toronto, then Chicago, for the Stanley Cup in 1943-44.
(Dave Sandford/HHOF)
Gerry Heffernan, now a spry 89 years old, lives just east of San Francisco in the rural community of Moraga, California. The Stanley Cup arrived on Sunday, September 4 and was taken into his home. There, waiting, were about 30 friends and neighbours of Gerry, his son Dan and daughter-in-law Barbara as well as their daughter Annie. Annie is now attending Harvard, the same alma mater as her Dad who earned his MBA there.

Hanging on a wall is a framed film poster for 'Heartaches.' "My son Terry wrote the screenplay for that film," states a proud father. The 1981 Canadian film, starring Margot Kidder, Annie Potts and Robert Carradine, was nominated for 11 Genie Awards, the Canadian equivalent of an Oscar. "Terry won the Genie for Best (Original) Screenplay." Terry, one of Gerry's two sons, died several years ago.

Canapes and beverages were served to guests as they had their pictures taken with Gerry and the Stanley Cup. If imperfections make the Stanley Cup that much more intriguing, then Gerry Heffernan has added to the Cup's allure. Engraved on the trophy is 'Jerry Hefferman.' "Not only is 'Heffernan' spelled incorrectly," laughed Gerry, "but 'Jerry' should be spelled with a 'G,' not a 'j'. My given name is 'Gerald.'" When the Stanley Cup was engraved in 1944, the Stanley Cup was long and slim and known as the 'stovepipe' version. At that time, before it was re-designed, Heffernan's name was correctly engraved as 'Gerald Heffernan.'

Lining the walls of Gerry's home are volumes of books, mostly involving hockey or golf. Gerry is a golf fanatic and is proud to state that he has golfed on 689 different courses through his life. Every scorecard from every round is meticulously kept and filed in order. And each scorecard not only denotes the strokes taken and final score, but includes additional information. "See, on this one you'll note that I had a gin and tonic at the end of the round," Heffernan grins.

Son Dan is about to embark on a golfing excursion to Scotland and will play many of the same courses his father already has. "He'll keep his scorecards too and we'll compare rounds at the same courses," explains Gerry. "The loser has to buy the winner a drink."

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Ralph Backstrom scored 278 goals, assisted on 361 more and collected 639 total points in his 1,032 NHL games. Ralph played 13 seasons in Montreal, later joining Los Angeles and Chicago. He played 304 more games in the World Hockey Association. (Frank Prazak/HHOF)
Ralph Backstrom turned seven years of age when Gerry Heffernan and the Montreal Canadiens won the Stanley Cup in 1943-44. It's been 47 years since Ralph Backstrom turned professional with the Montreal Canadiens himself. Although he played 3 games in 1956-57 and 2 the following year, Ralph's rookie season with Montreal was 1958-59. And what a season it was!

Backstrom scored 18 goals and collected 22 assists on his way to winning the Calder Trophy as the NHL's premier rookie. Both the rookie and the team were on fire. By the conclusion of the regular season, the Canadiens had distanced themselves from the competition, recording 91 points. Second place Boston finished with 73 points.

The defending Stanley Cup champions greeted the third-place Chicago Black Hawks in the opening round of the playoffs and disposed of them in six games. Backstrom picked up one assist playing on a line with Henri Richard and Ab McDonald.

The Stanley Cup final pitted the Canadiens against the Toronto Maple Leafs. Montreal scooped Game 1 with Ralph scoring a goal in the first period that contributed to the 5-3 final. Game 2's 3-1 score favoured Montreal in a game that also featured the rookie Backstrom tangling with Carl Brewer in the first period and George Armstrong in the third.

It was an extraordinary year for Backstrom in 1958-59. He collected 40 points, was named recipient of the Calder Trophy as rookie of the year, played in the All-Star Game and was on his first of six Stanley Cup championships! (Dave Sandford/HHOF)
Backstrom believed he had scored the game winner for Montreal at the 19:50 mark of the third period in Game 3 but referee Eddie Powers waived it off, citing the play as off-side. Regulation ended with the teams tied at 3, but Toronto's Dick Duff scored at 10:06 of overtime to steal the win. Game 4 ended in a 3-2 Montreal victory with each of the goals, including Ralph Backstrom's marker, scored in the third period.

The Montreal Forum was the scene of Game 5 of the Stanley Cup final. Playing with 'Boom Boom' Geoffrion and Ab McDonald, Ralph Backstrom was clearly the game's First Star. Collecting a goal and 3 assists, the rookie led his Canadiens to a 5-3 win and the Stanley Cup! It was a first for Ralph; it was the fourth in a row for the Montreal Canadiens.

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With almost 50 continuous years dedicated to hockey, Ralph Backstrom committed his talent and experience to northern Colorado. A bronze bust of Backstrom sits in the lobby of Windsor's Budweiser Event Centre. (Mike Bolt/HHOF)
The Stanley Cup arrived in Denver, Colorado on Monday, September 5 as the guest of Ralph Backstrom. Born in Kirkland Lake, Ontario, earlier this summer, Ralph had been part of the Stanley Cup's visit to his hometown as part of Hockey Heritage North, a museum being built there to honour the city's hockey heritage.

On this day, Ralph chose to bring the Stanley Cup to his current home in Windsor, Colorado. Since retiring as a player, Backstrom has been an NHL scout, an assistant coach in the NHL, coached in the now-defunct IHL, been commissioner of Roller Hockey International, been an award-winning NCAA Division coach and now, is part-owner of the Central Hockey League's champion Colorado Eagles.

At 8:00 that morning, the Stanley Cup was on display at the Comfort Inn in nearby Loveland. Guests and staff marveled that hockey's premier trophy was there — to touch and explore — in Northern Colorado.

Ralph inaugurated the Colorado Eagles into the Central Hockey League in 2003-04. In only their second season, Backstrom and the Eagles captured the CHL's President's Cup (right, beside the Stanley Cup). (Mike Bolt/HHOF)
The Eagles play out of the stunning Budweiser Event Centre in Windsor, Colorado, and at 10, the Cup was moved into the Eagles' home. There, in the lobby, is a bronze bust of Ralph Backstrom, chronicling his remarkable hockey career. Ralph was doing something additionally remarkable on September 5 — he was helping raise money for the creation of Inspiration Playground, a play area accessible to children with physical challenges to be built in Fort Collins, Colorado. For six hours, until 4:00, fans lined up to get their picture taken with the Stanley Cup. Off to one side was a Colorado Eagles Thunder Mountain Custom Motorcycle. Fans could purchase raffle tickets to win the beautiful bike. Again, proceeds went to Inspiration Playground.

"The Stanley Cup is like a magnet," Backstrom exclaimed. "It attracts people from all over the place. We had people from all over the front range coming up to get their pictures taken with it and it was a very, very successful event for all of us."

Using a raffle for a customized motorcycle and the lure of the Stanley Cup, Ralph Backstrom was able to raise a great deal of money towards the building of Inspiration Playground, a play area designed for physically challenged children. (Mike Bolt/HHOF)
Later that afternoon, the Stanley Cup was taken to Pelican Lakes Golf and Country Club where it was displayed again. The scenario was repeated, with fans able to purchase raffle tickets for the customized motorcycle or to have a photo taken with the Stanley Cup. Early in the evening, Ralph drew the name of the winner of the motorcycle — a local resident named Larry Buckendorf.

Through the motorcycle raffle and the photos with the Stanley Cup, the Colorado Eagles raised a significant amount for lnspiration Playground. The Eagles Foundation had pledged to contribute $250,000 to the building of the playground, and is well on its way, due, in large part, to the benevolence of Ralph Backstrom and his Colorado Eagles.

"It was a great event for us and everybody's still talking about it," Ralph said.

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Next time, the Stanley Cup Journal makes a trip to Vegas, then ventures into Los Angeles. You'll read about champions Max McNab, Al Langlois and Dutch Hiller when we next meet. See ya!

Kevin Shea is the Hockey Hall of Fame's Manager of Publishing and Editorial Services.
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