Bernie Geoffrion, nicknamed "Boom Boom," gained NHL fame for his hard shot and feisty temperament. Born and raised in Montreal, he played right wing for the Montreal Canadiens' dynasty teams in the 1950s and 1960s alongside Maurice "Rocket" Richard and Jean Beliveau. The powerful combination brought the Stanley Cup home to Montreal an amazing six times during Geoffrion's time there, and he also won the league scoring title twice and the Hart Trophy in 1961.
Many claim Geoffrion invented and perfected the slapshot - not bad for a kid who was once told by the assistant coach of a junior hockey team that he'd never make it in big-time hockey. Geoffrion played his junior hockey with the Montreal (and Laval) Nationales, and from the moment he joined the NHL, he proved to be a talented and determined star. It was no surprise when the league voted him for the Calder Trophy in 1952.
Although he and the Rocket were teammates, they were also rivals. In 1955 Richard seemed to have the league scoring title clinched, but he was suspended by NHL president Clarence Campbell for hitting a referee. Fans begged Geoffrion to cut down his scoring so Richard could win the title, but Boom Boom ignored them. And when he beat the Rocket for the title by a single point on the final day of the year, the crowd in the Montreal Forum booed him. But by 1961 it seemed Montreal fans had forgiven him - they gave him a ten-minute standing ovation at the Forum when he scored his 50th goal of the season. Geoffrion became only the second NHL player to hit the 50-goal mark after his teammate Rocket Richard.
Geoffrion broke his nose nine times and had 400 stitches during his 16-year career in the NHL. He also had numerous stomach problems and operations, but they never seemed to slow him down. One scary moment occurred during a routine practice in 1958 when Geoffrion collided with a teammate. He skated another few seconds and then collapsed. When the team doctor couldn't feel his pulse for 15 seconds, the doctor desperately turned Geoffrion upside down so blood could rush to his head. It worked, and Geoffrion was rushed to the hospital for emergency surgery for a ruptured bowel. He was even given last rites, but in the end Boom Boom pulled through.
Stubbornly, and against the advice of his doctors, Geoffrion returned to the Canadiens lineup to skate in the playoff series against Boston. Remarkably, he scored the first goal in his first game back, assisted on the second and banged home the winner as Montreal beat Boston 3-2 and roared to yet another Stanley Cup.
Boom Boom retired from the Canadiens in 1964. For a brief time he coached the Quebec Aces in the AHL, hoping to one day coach the Canadiens, but he wasn't asked to do so.
Geoffrion came back from his retirement in 1966 and played two more seasons with the New York Rangers. Despite the fact that he wasn't the powerhouse of his younger days, Geoffrion still led the Rangers in scoring for the first few weeks of his first season back.
In 1972 he moved to Atlanta to coach the Flames for two and a half years and went on to become the team's vice-president. He coached the Flames to the Stanley Cup playoffs in only his second season with the team. Geoffrion really took to the city, even though he said it felt a little strange to have hockey in the South. Of course, he was a big hit with the fans, and even remained in Georgia over the summers.
In 1979 Geoffrion realized his dream of coaching the Canadiens. Sadly, he lasted only 30 games due to stomach problems. As one of the most determined players in the history of the game, his place in hockey history was secure and he was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1972.
On March 11, 2006 -- six months after being diagnosed with stomach cancer and the morning of the day the Montreal Canadiens retired his number '5' jersey -- Geoffrion passed away.