Bernard ‘ Boom Boom ‘ Geoffrion is a legend in Montreal.
The former Montreal Canadien player passed away on the morning of March 11, 2006. Later that evening, the Canadiens’ organization raised his sweater to the rafters – retiring the famous number five in his honor. It was a dark moment in Habs’ history and a bright one for the Geoffrion family.
It was a day that normally would bring joy to the fans, the players, the organization and the family of a special player. A day which enables a celebration of a hockey player’s career. The rise of a young boy through the ranks, the trials and tribulations and the glory of becoming a man in life and on the rink. A day that reminds all of us how passion and hard work can lead to a life filled with respect, honor and opportunity. A day that was not supposed to end like this.
Tears filled the cheeks of thousands of spectators during a heart wrenching ceremony at Le Centre Bell as Geoffrion’s number took it’s rightful place next to the Rocket and Boom Boom’s father-in- law; Howie Morenz.
The ceremony was too late.
The fans knew it, the retired players knew it and the current day Canadiens knew it. The red – faced Montreal Canadien organization knew it all too much …
Geoffrion retired in 1968 after a sixteen year career that contained a Calder Trophy as the league’s top rookie, two Art Ross trophies as the top scorer, one Hart trophy as league MVP, six Stanley Cups and was the second player in the history of the NHL to score fifty goals in a season. In 883 games, he netted 822 points – 393 of them being goals and received over four hundred stitches while breaking his nose six times. Elected into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1972, a player with all these accomplishments should not have had to wait thirty – eight years to have his number retired.
Just days prior to his death, Ron Fournier of CKAC radio in Montreal – contacted ‘ the Boomer ‘ by telephone at Geoffrion’s home in Atlanta. Bernard Geoffrion was weak as the stomach cancer slowly and painfully stole his breath. The following is known as Geoffrion’s final interview;
” Mr Geoffrion it’s Ron Fournier at CKAC in Montreal … How are you?”
Geoffrion: ” … Not so good Ron …!”
” Mr Geoffrion will you be at the Bell Center for your sweater ceremony next week? ”
Geoffrion: ” Ron if I’m still kicking I swear I will be there …!”
” Great… ! Mr Geoffrion, do you follow hockey and the Canadiens?”
Geoffrion: ” Ron I don’t watch hockey anymore. I watch baseball and football…”
” Mr. Geoffrion … Why don’t you follow the Canadiens? “
Geoffrion: ” Ron seeing that I don’t have much time left on this earth so I can’t get into trouble I’m going to tell you …I ‘m talking for me but most of my teammates share the same opinion. J’aurais jouer gratuitement juste pour porter le chandail!!!! I would have played for free just to wear the jersey!!!!!”
* Thanks to Mr. Phillipe Ouimet for the transcript. Mr. Ouimet is a former resident of NDG, a newly – retired hockey coach at the young age of 70 and a friend of Mr. Fournier . Phillipe is also a former teammate of Robin Burns ( Pat Burns’ cousin and President of Itech ) and Andre Boudrias – the Habs’ former assistant G.M. and director of scouting. On behalf of all your former players and hockey – thank you Mr. Ouimet !