July 25, 2015

Lionel Heinrich

Lionel Heinrich was a 5-foot-10, 180-pound defenceman grew up in Churchbridge, Saskatchewan. As a youth he played exclusively on outdoor rinks, sometimes in temperatures reaching minus-40, until he reached junior. He once told the story of a childhood teammate who played outside in the cold air to the point where he damaged a lung and had to have it removed later in life.

Heinrich spent three seasons with the Humboldt (Sask.) Indians junior team before turning professional with the Hershey Bears for the 1954-55 season.

Midway through the 1955-56 season, Heinrich was promoted to the last place team in the NHL - the Boston Bruins.

The 20-year-old defenceman scored a first-period goal on the power-play against Al Rollins to tie the score at 1-1 against the Chicago Black Hawks. It was the last goal scored in that game. Interestingly the assists went to Fern Flaman and Bill Quackenbush, two more defensemen. Heinrich did occasionally play some left wing, and appears to have on this night.

The Bruins may have been the worst team in the NHL, but they had a pretty decent blue line. In addition to the rugged Flaman and future Hall of Famer Quackenbush, they also boasted Leo Boivin, Bill Armstrong and Hal Laycoe. Those were five quality defenders in an era when only five blue liners were employed. It made it tough for Bruins rookies like Heinrich and Don Cherry to crack the roster.

Heinrich would certainly not be remembered for his offensive contributions. In 35 career games he would not score another goal. He picked up an errant assist along with 33 minutes in penalties.

That was the extent of Heinrich's NHL career. He would spend the 1956-57 season with the Victoria Cougars. Aside from a season playing senior hockey in Windsor, Ontario, Heinrich's played out west in Regina until 1962.

In retirement Heinrich, an avid hunter and fisherman, moved to beautiful Cranbrook, British Columbia. He and his beloved labrador retrievers would chase cougars up the mountain side. He would basically move to Port Alice, BC during fishing season, spending as much time on the ocean as he could.

Heinrich owned and trained thoroughbred horses and tried several small business ventures including selling trailers.

Lionel Heinrich died on April 21st, 2014. The day before he celebrated his 80th birthday.

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