Saturday, March 11, 2006

Bernie Geoffrion dead at 75

Today is the day the Montreal Canadians had planed on retiring Boom Boom Geoffrion's #5 jersey. It was announced earlier this week that Geoffrion was too sick to make the trip. Geoffrion died earlier today at age 75 from stomach cancer. The tumour was discovered during a checkup two weeks ago. Doctors operated, but found the disease had spread too much to be removed.

Many recognize Geoffrion as the inventor of the slapshot. Boom Boom said he invented the slapshot as a youngster, swiping at pucks on a rink in a churchyard near his home in Montreal. Others have also claimed the invention, but there is no question that Geoffrion was the player who popularized the shot that would give him his nickname. Bernard Andre Joseph Geoffrion, born on Feb. 16, 1931, was dubbed Boom Boom by sportswriter Charlie Boire of the Montreal Star while he was playing junior hockey for the Laval Nationale in the late 1940s. One boom was for the sound of his stick striking the puck; the second was for when his rocketing shot hit the boards.

Geoffrion, was the second player in NHL history – teammate Rocket Richard was the first – to score 50 goals in a season, in 1960-61. That same season he won the Hart Trophy as the NHL's most valuable player and the Art Ross Trophy as the league's leading scorer.

He also won the Art Ross Trophy in 1954-55.

Geoffrion was a three-time all-star in the Quebec Major Junior League with the Laval Nationale. He made an immediate splash in Montreal, winning the Calder Trophy as the rookie of the year in 1952, with 30 goals and adding 24 assists in his first season in the NHL.

He was a member of six Stanley Cup winners with the Canadiens, leading all players in the 1956-57 playoffs with 11 goals and 18 assists in just 10 games.

He retired in 1964. After coaching the Quebec Aces in the American Hockey League for two seasons, he came out of retirement in 1966 and played two seasons with the Rangers.

In a 16-year NHL career, Geoffrion compiled 393 goals, 429 assists, and 689 penalty minutes in 883 games. He played in the league's all-star game in all but five of those seasons.

Geoffrion was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1972.

He tried his hand at coaching, taking the helm of the expansion Atlanta Flames for two-and-a-half seasons in the early 1970s. He even got to coach the Canadiens in 1979-80, but lasted only 30 games.

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