PITTSBURGH -- Philippe Bozon overcame extremely long odds to become the first French-born player to play in the NHL. His career landed him in the International Ice Hockey Federation’s Hall of Fame -- in the same class as someone very familiar in these parts named Mario Lemieux.
But one thing Bozon always wanted to do during that exceptional career that included four Olympic Games was to play for the Montreal Canadiens. He never did -- but now it looks as though his son may get that opportunity.
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Tim Bozon, a right wing with the Kamloops Blazers of the Western Hockey League, was selected by the Canadiens during Saturday’s portion of the NHL Draft at No. 64, and the sight of his son wearing the famous Habs jersey was a moment of great pride for his father.
"I’m very happy," the elder Bozon said. "I played my major junior hockey in [the Montreal suburb of] St-Jean and I went to go watch the games at the Forum. It was my childhood dream, so to see Tim have a chance to be part of an organization that I would have liked to be a part of makes me very proud."
Philippe Bozon played 144 NHL games with the St. Louis Blues from 1991-95 before returning to Europe to complete his career in Switzerland, where he now lives. Tim Bozon was born in St. Louis in 1994, and while he also holds Swiss citizenship he’s played his international hockey for France, just like his dad and his grandfather before him.
Now, he will have an opportunity to perhaps play for the ultimate "French" club team one day as well.
"It’s an organization that has confidence in its young players, and the fact it’s in a French city is great for me," Tim Bozon said. "I’m very excited to play for Montreal, I love the city and I love Quebec."
Of course, players who can speak French in Montreal are under the microscope a little bit more than others, but Philippe has confidence his son can handle it -- and he’d rather focus on the upside of playing in a passionate city like Montreal.
"There’s a lot of positive energy that comes off that city from the fans, they live for hockey," he said. "He dreams of hockey day and night, so there can’t be a better place for him to play in the NHL."
After learning to play the game in Switzerland, Tim Bozon decided this year he wanted to start paving his own path to the NHL and opted to play in the Canadian Hockey League. But rather than go to Quebec, where his transition would be much easier, he chose the Western Hockey League.
It’s a decision that paid off -- not only did Bozon put up 71 points in 71 games for the Blazers, he also got a crash course in North American hockey.
"I wanted to play in the NHL and I want to do everything I can to make it, so playing in the CHL is the best path to get to the NHL," Tim Bozon said. "We get seen more often by NHL teams. I chose to go to the WHL because it’s a tougher league, the defensemen are bigger, the travel is tougher. It’s a league where you need to have mental toughness. I could have chosen the Quebec league, but I wanted to go somewhere that was really tough. I think I made the right choice."
The Canadiens clearly agreed.
"A European like that who goes to play in Kamloops in the WHL, it’s pretty clear he wants to become a hockey player," GM Marc Bergevin said. "That impressed me a lot."
Of course, just being drafted by the Canadiens doesn’t mean Tim Bozon will necessarily play for them, but it is a step in that direction.
It’s an opportunity he has every intention of exploiting to its full potential.
"We’re happy today that he’s part of one of the greatest organizations in the NHL," Philippe Bozon said, "but now it’s up to him to do the work so he can fulfill his dream."
If Tim Bozon manages to make it to Montreal, it won’t just be his own dreams coming true.