Sebastien Geoffrion says it was while watching his grandfather’s number 5 being raised to the Bell Centre ceiling that he realized what Bernard (Boom Boom) Geoffrion meant to hockey and the Montreal Canadiens.
The entire family was in a daze, first from news that Boom Boom had died that very day of stomach cancer, and then from standing at centre ice for the jersey retirement ceremony before 21,273 cheering fans.
“It was a sad day, but it was also a great day,” the 19-year-old said this week. “I finally saw how famous he really was.
“Before, I just saw him as my grandpa – my grandpa with all false teeth. But we were treated like gods in Montreal.”
Sebastien Geoffrion and his 21-year-old brother Blake, a second-round draft pick of the Nashville Predators, are carrying on a family tradition of playing high-level hockey that now spans four generations
Sebastien is a feisty forward for the Indiana Ice, who were playing the Fargo Force this week in the final of the United States Hockey League, the only Tier-1 junior league based entirely south of the border.
Blake plays at the University of Wisconsin.
Their grandmother, Marlene Morenz, is the daughter of former Canadiens great Howie Morenz. She married Boom Boom, and their son Dan, who played briefly for the Canadiens, is the father of Blake, Sebastien and a younger son Brice, who plays at Culver Military Academy in Indiana.
Boom Boom was a gritty forward who won the NHL scoring title twice and was the league’s MVP in 1961.
Sebastien also scores his share of goals, but gets more fans out of their seats for his fights. Although he is only five-foot-10 185 pounds, he dropped the gloves 15 times this season.
“I guess that’s my role, but I bring more than that,” he said. “But I’m not afraid to get my nose dirty.”
His coach, Jeff Blashill, recalled how early in the series with Fargo, Geoffrion took on six-foot-two 215-pound Grant Scott.
“That really turned the momentum of the game,” said Blashill. “He’s scrappy and he gets under the other teams’ skin.
“He’ll go any time against anybody. In Chicago this year, he got into a fight and I guess he lost. He got stitched up, came back and scored two goals and got into another fight.”
The Ice acquired Geoffrion in mid-season from the Lincoln Stars because they were looking for toughness.
“He’s a big reason we’re in the final,” added Brashill.
Geoffrion has not been drafted, and while his brother is a strong prospect, it remains uncertain if he will ever make it to the NHL.
He hopes to continue his development next season at the University of Alabama-Huntsville, where the coach is former Winnipeg Jet Danton Cole.
Brashill won’t bet against him.
“He understands how he can make himself a commodity,” he said. “There are more talented kids, but he knows how to separate himself so that he has what teams are looking for. With his mental toughness, he has a chance.”
Geoffrion still has hope, but if not, he looks forward to playing at a university that is not too far from the family home in Nashville.
And he’d love to get a USHL title, if only to prove his former coach in Lincoln wrong for trading him.
“It would be nice to put that in his face,” he said.