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April 26, 2015

Red Heron

Toronto's Robert "Red" Heron was a goal scoring sensation in junior hockey in the 1930s. That was never more true than in 1936. Heron scored an astonishing 18 goals and 26 points in just 12 games as he led the West Toronto Nationals to the Memorial Cup championship. The slim and rangy center scored 4 goals in a 7-2 victory in the championship game.

Heron would play two more seasons of amateur senior hockey before turning pro with the Toronto Maple Leafs in 1939. Over the next two seasons he apprentice on the Leafs' depth lines, centering checking units with Gus Marker and Pete Langelle as his wingers. Though he was described as dynamic player he never really got untracked offensively, however.

Perhaps a lot of that had to do with a lack of opportunity. Late in 1939-40 season Heron was moved to Pep Kelly's wing with the great Sweeney Schriner on the opposite side. Playing with more offensively talented players Heron showed what he could do, exploding for a four goal game in a 8-4 victory over the Montreal Canadiens.

But such top line opportunities were rare for Heron, for whatever reason. In 1941-42 Heron started the season by tearing it up in the minor leagues with the Pittsburgh Hornets. He scored 20 goals and 36 points in just 23 games, including an AHL record six goals scored in one game! Three of his goals came in a 75 second span as the Hornets humiliated the visiting New Haven Eagles.

That type of pace gets you noticed, especially as NHL teams were losing talent to World War II efforts. The New York Americans traded Lorne Carr to the Leafs for Heron and Marker, but neither got untracked in New York, either. Heron scored just one assist in 11 games.

The Amerks moved Heron to Montreal before the end of the season, but his scoring woes continued. He picked up one goal and one assist in 12 more games with the Habs. In a nice piece of symmetry Heron's last NHL goal came against Toronto.

Montreal turned out to be Red Heron's last NHL stop. He, too, was called upon for military service the next season, though he was stationed in Toronto mostly. He was able to continue playing hockey at the senior level, finding his goal scoring touch once again.

After his military commitments ended Heron never did return to the pro game. He remained in Toronto and played senior hockey until the end of the decade.

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