MORAGA — If you're a part of hockey history, a Stanley Cup champion, your name should be spelled correctly on the coveted Cup, especially when the NHL has had 61 years to make that correction.

That's all Gerry Heffernan is asking, and it's not such a tall request even for a short hockey career, which happened to be his puck luck.

Two years is all he had in the NHL, but he is satisfied. For two years and one Stanley Cup is better than 22 years and no Stanley Cup.

However, did the NHL idiots have to make him suffer for his 1943-44 season in the sun with the Montreal Canadiens by botching his name on the Cup? He is Gerry Heffernan, not "Jerry Hefferman." Can't the league spell?

"Does it bother me? Not really," Heffernan said a few days ago. "It was a means to an end. To get to the top of your sport, the apex, it's not only an honor but a privilege."

Heffernan, 89, is unfailinglypolite.

"I was a one-season wonder, and I wonder how I got that," he said. "I didn't have any ability. It was a weakened league. I wouldn't have qualified otherwise. There were many right-wingers better than I was."

Heffernan also is exceedingly modest. Yes, it was wartime when he played, but there were only six NHL teams back then, therefore not that many openings for wingers, right or left.

And he scored 28 goals that season, 11th best in the NHL. Only the legendary Maurice "Rocket" Richard had more goals on the Canadiens (32). Heffernan added 23 assists as Montreal then swept Chicago in four games for the Cup.

Since Heffernan wasn't exactly chopped liver on ice, it shouldn't be too much for those NHL boobs to get his name right. Even on his silver platter commemorating that championship season, Heffernan's first name was spelled "Jerry." Well, at least "Heffernan" was correct.

The NHL had a chance to make amends Sunday. Because Heffernan is a Stanley Cup winner, he was eligible for the current NHL tour, where league champions get to have the Cup in their home for a few hours.

So Heffernan invited three-dozen friends to his Moraga townhouse Sunday, when Lord Stanley's Cup was to arrive. He ordered platters of cold cuts and drinks. He longed to see the Cup, and his name spelled correctly.

A Montreal native, Heffernan moved West in 1978 to be near his son, Danny, who has homes in Orinda and San Francisco. The elder Heffernan's wife, Kathleen, died 11 years ago. The old man lives alone with his memories.

"I didn't expect to play in the NHL," he said. "I was a borderline player. My strength was as a back-checker, to keep my opponent from scoring."

However, one night against Detroit, he had four goals and a assist, and narrowly missed a fifth goal. His small slice of ice fame included playing on "The Razzle Dazzle Line" with Pete Morin and Buddy O'Connor.

Razzle Dazzle Line?

"It was the way we passed the puck," Heffernan explained. "Newsweek wrote that we played as well as the equally powerful line of Richard, Toe Blake and Elmer Lach. Can you imagine that?"

To be mentioned in the same sentence with Richard, Blake and Lach — "The Punch Line" — is worth savoring.

Heffernan's health is moderately good. He lost the use of one eye through glaucoma, but he doesn't need a hearing aid. He feeds his frail body with a tube, but he still drives his Mercedes around Contra Costa County.

He reads, he walks twice a week, and he answers autograph seekers — he's a cult hockey hero. The anticipation of the Stanley Cup injected excitement into his declining years. Then the doorbell rang Sunday afternoon.

"I didn't hold it up myself," he said of the Cup after it had come and gone. "They saddled it on my lap and shoulder. It was heavy. But it was a special feeling; having the people around me made it more special."

The big question: Was Gerry Heffernan's name spelled correctly?

"No," he said. "On the Cup they're taking around, it's 'Jerry Hefferman.' I'm going around now as AKA Jerry Hefferman."

When the NHL went on strike last season, it was mentally as well as physically difficult. This is no way to treat an old man, who deserves much better.

Dave Newhouse can be reached at 510-208-6466 or by e-mail at dnewhouse@angnewspapers.com.