Geoffrion's Habs family history
JEAN-FRANCOIS CHAUMONT, QMI Agency
|Steve Sullivan (right) celebrates a goal against the Ducks with Blake Geoffrion at the Honda Center in Anaheim, Calif., April 13, 2011. (MIKE BLAKE/Reuters)
MONTREAL - Blake Geoffrion grew up in Nashville, the country music capital of the world.
Living in Tennessee, far away from much of the hockey world, he didn't fully grasp the impact of his last name and that of his grandfather, Bernie "Boom Boom" Geoffrion.
In 2006, Geoffrion discovered an important part of his roots. He had know for a long time that hockey was in his blood, but until then didn't know just how true that was.
Blake was only 18 when he watched his grandfather's No. 5 jersey raised to the Bell Centre rafters. That very day, March 11, 2006, Boom Boom died in an Atlanta hospital at age 75.
"It was really a mix of emotions," said Geoffrion, the newest Montreal Canadien, during a phone interview with QMI Agency. "I understood my grandfather's importance the day his jersey was retired. For me, he was just my papi, but he was much bigger for Montreal, the Canadiens and the NHL."
But Geoffrion's roots in the organization go even deeper than his grandfather.
Acquired in the trade that sent defenceman Hal Gill to Nashville last Friday, Geoffrion, 24, could become the fourth generation in his family to play for the Habs. Howie Morenz, his great-grandfather, and his dad, Danny Geoffrion, both played for the team as well.
"I was a bit shocked when I learned I was leaving the Predators, but it was an incredible situation for me to end up with the Canadiens," he said. "I'm excited to make my debut with the team of my family. For now, I want to regain my confience with the Bulldogs before thinking about Montreal."
Although Geoffrion played 22 games with the Preds this season, the Canadiens assigned him to the Hamilton Bulldogs of the AHL after the trade. In his first two games with Hamilton, Geoffrion had one goal and four assists.
"The day of the trade, Pierre Gauthier spoke to me on the phone to tell me that there could be other changes with the Canadiens," said Geoffrion. "He didn't make me any promises. It's up to me to prove to management that I have a place in the NHL."
Bulldogs defenceman Frederic St. Denis spoke highly of his new teammate.
"Blake works hard, he sees the game well and was used all over because of our injuries," he said. "He also told us in the bus how proud he is to be in the Canadiens organization. I see him with the team sooner than later."
Though he doesn't speak French, Blake loved hearing the stories from, and about, his grandfather.
"I sometimes thought they were just grandpa stories, that he exaggerated," he said. "He would talk about the Rocket, Jean Beliveau or Dickie Moore. It was always funny and I loved listening when he told his hockey stories."
When he was younger, Blake learned where the Boom Boom nickname came from.
"I was playing hockey in the yard and he took my stick to teach me slap shots," he said. "Because I'm left handed, he held my stick with the blade in the wrong direction because he was a righty. That didn't stop him from hitting a hard shot and putting a hole in the fence. My dad (Danny) took many years before replacing the fence."
In addition to offering him shooting tips, Blake also remembers two other pieces of advice from his papi.
"He always told me that, to score, you have to take a shot on goal. That's simple enough to say, but he told me that all the time. Second, he reminded me of the importance of respecting the fans and always to remain friendly with them. Never refuse an autograph."
It likely won't be long before Geoffrion will be signing plenty of those.