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April 26, 2015

Gerry Heffernan

The opening of the 1941-42 NHL season was not kind to the Montreal Canadiens. They were still recovering from the Great Depression. Like all NHL teams they were losing players to Canada's military efforts in World War II. Injuries were already mounting - most notably Elmer Lach was out with a broken arm. The Habs stumbled to just one win in the first seven games of the season.

Desperate to change their fortunes, the team looked for an infusion of new talent. They didn't have to look far. They went across town to sign all three members of the top line of the Montreal Royals senior amateur club.

The Razzle Dazzle Line was coming to the National Hockey League, and within two seasons they would lead the Canadiens to the Stanley Cup ending a decade and a half drought.

The trio of flyweights who led the Royals to senior amateur dominance consisted of 5'6", 150lbs left winger Pete Morin from Lachine, 5'8" 145lb future Hockey Hall of Famer Buddy O'Connor from Verdun and 5'9" 160lb right winger Gerry Heffernan of Montreal.

Heffernan was a noted junior player who was happy to join the Royals at the age of 19 in 1936. Adventure lured the youngster away by 1937, crossing the Atlantic Ocean to play for the Harringay Greyhounds of the English National League. Statistics are scarce, but it is safe to say his biggest score was meeting the woman who would be come his bride in 1940 - Kathleen "Kit" Duggan.

After his single season British sojourn Heffernan returned to Royals and joined Morin on a line with a fellow named Gordie Crutchfield. They would lead the Royals against the Port Arthur Bearcats for the Allan Cup as Canada's amateur champions, falling short in overtime in the championship game.

The Allan Cup was still held in high regard at that time, with it's heroes and villains celebrated not unlike the Stanley Cup. Heffernan would lead the Royals back to the Allan Cup playoffs the following two seasons. Even once Buddy O'Connor entered the scene the Royals never could quite win the title.

The Habs welcomed all three to the NHL in 1941-42, sparing no expense. They signed the entire line for a combined $12,000.

They immediately began wowing crowds with their exciting skating and passing game. They were too small to win many puck battles. They relied on their speed and creativity.

Originally only Buddy O'Connor remained with the Canadiens, with Heffernan returning to Royals. A broken toe did not allow Heffernan to play his best in his rookie season, but he remained headline worth in the city with his amateur game. A playoff call up in 1943 led to a full time return for the 1943-44 season. He scored an impressive 28 goals and 48 points in 43 games, reuniting with O'Connor and new linemate Fern Majeau.

The Habs were a powerhouse by then, thanks to another youngster named Maurice Richard playing on a line with Lach and Toe Blake. The Habs would steamroll their way to their first Stanley Cup championship since 1931.

Maurice (Rocket) Richard played with Mr. Lach and veteran Toe Blake, which became known as the Punch Line. Mr. Heffernan and Mr. O'Connor were joined by Fern Majeau, similar in size to his pint-sized linemates.

That season, Mr. Heffernan enjoyed his best ever, netting 28 goals in 43 games. He would only score once in the playoffs. Still, the Canadiens managed to claim their first championship since 1931. Heffernan would get his name on the Stanley Cup, though his first name was spelled "Jerry."

The Stanley Cup championship game was Heffernan's last in the NHL. He returned to the Royals for two more seasons of unsuccessfully chasing the Allan Cup title that escaped his grasp.

By the summer of 1946 Heffernan retired from hockey. He took up a profitable job as an insurance broker in Montreal and fell in love with golf. He would retire to California where he passed away in 2007 at the age of 90.

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