Walter Edgar (Hergy) Hergesheimer
Born: January 8, 1927 (Winnipeg, Manitoba)
Died: September 27, 2014 (Winnipeg, Manitoba)
Manitoba Hockey Hall of Fame (1987)
Manitoba Sports Hall of Fame (2009)
Wally Hergesheimer burst onto the NHL as a scoring sensation with the New York Rangers in 1951-52. He notched 26 goals in his rookie campaign, second best behind Bernie (Boom Boom) Geoffrion of the Montreal Canadiens, who won the Calder Trophy as rookie of the year.
The Ranger sniper, who was also known as the Garbage Collector for being in the right place at the right time to bang home rebounds and lose pucks, scored 27 goals in his third season. He showed promise in being a perennial scoring threat until a severely broken left leg suffered in a game in Toronto in December, 1954, limited his ability.
The 5-foot-8, 155-pound right winger was slight even by the standards of the mid-1950s NHL. In a game against Boston, he paired off with Bruinds bad guy Bob Armstrong, who had five inches and 25 pounds on him. Asked afterwards his strategy had they fought, Hergy replied, “I would have bled all over him.”
Rangers general manager Frank Boucher admired the forward’s ability not to be physically punished by larger opponents. “He’s one of the trickiest players I ever saw around the net,” he said. “And small as he is, he manages to roll with the bodychecks so that nobody ever seems to get a clean shot at him.”
Walter Edgar Hergesheimer was the youngest of nine children born to Magdalena (née Jonatschick) and Henry Hergesheimer. An older brother, Phil, broke into the NHL with the Chicago Black Hawks in 1939. “He put a hockey stick in my hands before I was old enough to walk without falling on my face,” Wally once recalled.
In the summer of 1944, 17-year-old Wally got a job as a punch-press operator. On July 22, he caught his right hand in the machine, losing part of his middle and index fingers. His hockey career seemed over before it had started, but he managed to score 20 goals in 10 games for the junior Winnipeg Rangers. After two more seasons of junior hockey with the Brandon Elks, he skated for the minor professional Minneapolis Millers and San Francisco Shamrocks.
In 1950-51, he scored 42 goals with 41 assists with the Cleveland Barons to win the Dudley (Red) Garrett Memorial Trophy as rookie of the year in the American Hockey League. Wally got to play against his older brother for the first time, as the older Hergesheimer played forward with the Cincinnati Mohawks. Wally Hergesheimer led all league scorers with 11 playoff goals, five of them game winners, as the Barons claimed the Calder Cup as league champions.
The Rangers traded Ed Reigle, Jackie Gordon, Fred Shero, Fern Perreault, Armand (Dutch) Delmonte and cash to Cleveland for Hergesheimer and Hy Buller.
In the 1953 NHL All-Star Game, Hergesheimer opened the scoring with two goals 79 seconds apart in the first period, as the NHL All-Stars defeated the Canadiens, the defending Stanley Cup champions, by 3-1.
Late in the 1953-54 season, Hergesheimer, who had scored 27 goals with four games left, broke his left leg just above the ankle while trying to bodycheck Leo Labine. The injury kept him out of action for nine months. He returned in the fall of 1954 and was skating in is 14th game when he broke the same leg in the same spot after an accidental collision with Teeder Kennedy of the Maple Leafs. Hergy had scored earlier in the game, his fourth goal of the campaign, but his season was over. Doctors diagnosed a calcium deficiency in his bones and it was feared his career had ended.
The brittle forward put in a full, 70-game season in 1955-56, as the woeful Rangers made the playoffs for the first time since he joined the team. After scoring 22 regular-season goals, Hergy managed just one in five games as the Rangers were eliminated by the Canadiens, who went on to win the Stanley Cup.
The Rangers traded the diminutive forward to the Chicago Black Hawks for Red Sullivan in the summer of 1956. He managed to score only twice in 41 games before his season ended with a fractured shoulder. The Hawks traded him and Frank Martin to the minor league Buffalo Bisons for winger Ken Wharram.
By coincidence, the Rangers bought the Bisons and the sure-handed forward returned to the NHL club, where he was a fan favourite at Madison Square Garden. He scored just three goals in 22 games and returned to the Bisons.
Hergy finished his career in the Western Hockey League with the Calgary Stampeders (40 goals in 1960-61) and Los Angeles Blades (21 goals in 1961-62).
His NHL career totals included 114 goals and 85 assists in 351 games.
After leaving hockey, he worked for Manitoba’s liquor commission.
He died at St. Boniface Hospital in Winnipeg. He leaves Ruth, his wife of 60 years; a daughter; two sons; six grandchildren and two great-grandchildren. He was predeceased by three brothers and five sisters.