Canadiens mourn the passing of Bernard Geoffrion
MONTREAL - It is with deep sadness that the Montreal Canadiens learned the passing of Bernard Geoffrion. He died quietly early Saturday morning in an Atlanta hospital, following a brief battle with stomach cancer. Bernard Geoffrion was 75 years old.
To honor Geoffrion's last wishes, the family decided to be reunited tonight at the Bell Centre. The ceremony of the raising of his No. 5 jersey will take place as scheduled prior to the game against the New York Rangers. Geoffrion's wife, Marlene, daughter of hockey legend Howie Morenz, his children Linda, Danny and Robert, and his grandchildren will be together to celebrate the life and the career of "Boom-Boom".
Born in Montreal on February 16, 1931, Geoffrion played 16 seasons in the National Hockey League, including 14 with the Canadiens, between 1950 and 1964. After a two-year retirement, Geoffrion returned to the NHL with the New York Rangers in 1966-1967. He retired permanently at the end of the 1967-1968 season with a career record of 393 goals and 429 assists for a total of 822 points in 883 regular season games. In 132 playoff games, Geoffrion recorded 58 goals and 60 assists for a total of 118 points.
During his 766 career games with the Canadiens, Geoffrion scored 371 goals and added 388 assists for a total of 759 points. In post-season play with the Canadiens, Geoffrion earned 115 points, including 56 goals, in 127 playoff games. He also etched his name on the Stanley Cup on six different occasions (1953, 1956, 1957, 1958, 1959 and 1960). In June of 1972, Geoffrion received the highest reward for a professional hockey player when he was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame, on the same day as his teammate and friend Jean Bliveau.
In the summer of 1979, Geoffrion fulfilled yet another dream when he became the 16th head coach in Montreal Canadiens' history, taking over for the legendary Scotty Bowman. Unfortunately, health conditions forced Geoffrion to resign on December 11. Under his leadership, the Canadiens collected 15 wins, 9 losses and 6 ties (36 points - .600) and were at the top of the Norris Division. Geoffrion was also the first head coach in the Atlanta Flames franchise history, from 1972 to 1975. In 208 games, he posted a record of 77 wins, 92 losses and 39 ties (193 points - .416) and led the team to the playoffs in the team's second year of existence.
Credited with the invention of the slap shot, which earned him the nickname "Boom-Boom," Geoffrion enjoyed a career filled with several exceptional achievements. He played his first NHL game on December 16, 1950 against the New York Rangers at the Forum. Given a three-game tryout by then-GM Frank Selke, Geoffrion scored his teams' lone goal, on Chuck Rayner, in his very first game, to give the Canadiens a 1-1 tie.
In his first full season with the Canadiens, in 1951-1952, Geoffrion earned the Calder Trophy as the league's most outstanding rookie, after recording 30 goals and 24 assists in 67 games.
Geoffrion would go on to win several more awards during his career. In 1954-1955, in his fourth NHL season, he won the first of two scoring titles earning the Art Ross Trophy with a total of 75 points, including 38 goals, in 70 games. This performance also earned him a place on the NHL's 2nd All-Star Team, behind his teammate and idol Maurice Richard.
Geoffrion's most memorable achievements occurred during the 1960-1961 season when he became only the second player, after Rocket Richard, to reach the 50-goal plateau in a season. His feat occurred on March 16, 1961, with a goal on Toronto's Cesare Maniago, in a game played at the Forum. This timely goal also earned him a second NHL scoring title with a season total of 95 points in 64 games. He was also awarded the Hart Trophy as the League's Most Valuable Player as well as a berth on the NHL's 1st All-Star Team.
During the Canadiens' domination in the mid-50's, Geoffrion manned the right point on a power play unit so proficient that the NHL had no alternative but to end the rule that a two-minute penalty be sat out in its entirety even if the team on the power play scored.
Among the Canadiens' all-time right wingers, Mr. Geoffrion ranks seventh for most goals in a season, with 50, tied with Maurice Richard (1944-1945), Guy Lafleur (1979-1980) and Stphane Richer (1987-1988). His 95 points in 1960-1961 ranked him first among all Canadiens' right-wingers until Guy Lafleur surpassed him on his way to his first of six consecutive 100-point season, in 1974-1975.