I’ve written a bit in the past about one of hockey’s all-time great players—and personalities: Bernard (Bernie) “Boom Boom” Geoffrion.
He will always be a big name in my mind because he was one of the true stars with what was perhaps the greatest team of all-time, the Montreal Canadiens who won the Cup each between 1956 and 1960. No team in hockey has done that before, or since. And Geoffrion was no small part of that picture. (That team was sort of imprinted in me, because my late father was such a devout Montreal fan. I learned about all the old greats, from Aurel Joliat in the 1930 to Butch Bouchard in the '50s, from Dad)
He earned his famous nickname (“Boom Boom”) because he was one of the first, in the late 1950s, to really patent, if you will, the modern-day slapshot. A number of players slapped the puck, but he was one of the guys who made it something special, a new art form, in that late ‘50s era. (Others, most notably Bobby Hull, took the shot to the next level, what with the advent of the curved stick.)
Geoffrion was the first guy since his long-time teammate "Rocket" Richard to score 50 goals in a single season, when that was a truly special number in hockey. (He did in in the 1960-’61 season, surpassing Toronto’s young “Big M”, Frank Mahovlich, who looked a sure bet to get to the magic number himself after a great start to the season.)
A small historical note: Geoffrion was one of the mainstays on the vaunted Hab power play of the ‘50s, along with names like Rocket Richard, Beliveau, Doug Harvey, Bert Olmstead (who later was a key member of the '62 Leaf Cup team) Dickie Moore and others. So good was
with the man advantage (they would sometimes score two or three times during the same two-minute penalty) that the other teams came together and forced the league to modify the rule, which stands to this day. That is, once a team scores a goal on the power-play, the penalized team gets their player back on the ice. Montreal
In any event Geoffrion’s name has been back in the news of late because his grandson, Blake Geoffrion, is now emerging as quite a fine young player with the hard-working Nashville Predators. The elder Geoffrion was famous, in part, because he had married the daughter of another old-time Montreal Hall-of-Famer, Howie Morenz. Now, young Blake is fourth-generation, I think it is, down in
Nashville—a far cry from the hockey hotbed that is . (Interestingly, some may not recall that Boom Boom's own son, Danny, played for him when Geoffrion briefly coached the Habs during the 1979-'80 season. If I remember correctly, Montreal had picked Danny in the first round of the NHL draft.) Montreal
If I’m not mistaken, Blake was actually born in the south, and played his minor hockey down there. Of course, grandpa Bernie, old-time fans will remember, was once upon a time the coach of the then expansion Atlanta Flames in the mid-1970s. Cliff Fletcher, the long-time Maple Leaf executive, and former Leaf player and coach Pat Quinn were part of the organization in the 1970s when Boom Boom was coaching in
. Cliff was the GM and Pat a tough defenseman and team captain. Atlanta
Geoffrion was wildly popular in
because he was a good guy and had such an effervescent personality. The fans in the south loved his wonderful French-Canadian accent and his great charm. I don’t know about young Blake, but while he may not be the story-teller his grad dad was, he is doing the family name quite proud, it seems. Atlanta
I wish the young man well. For me, and I’m sure for many old-time hockey fans, it’s tremendous to see and hear the Geoffrion name in the NHL again.