COLUMBUS, Ohio – In four weeks, Blake Geoffrion will get married to his fiancée Katelyn Deady. Sometime in the near future, the couple plans to start their family.
As he contemplated his future playing hockey in the wake of a depressed skull fracture suffered last November while playing for the Hamilton Bulldogs (AHL), those two things were far and away the most important. Geoffrion, 25, comes from strong hockey lineage but wasn’t about to let the sport's inherent risks dictate the rest of his life.
Selected in the second round of the 2007 NHL Draft by the Nashville Predators (where he grew up in suburban Brentwood), Geoffrion was traded to Montreal in February 2012. His grandfather, Bernie “Boom Boom” Geoffrion and great grandfather Howie Morenz, are both Hockey Hall of Famers and his father Danny played for the Canadiens, as well.
The decision to retire from professional hockey earlier this week is something Geoffrion did not take lightly. He agonized over it, meticulously evaluated it, and is now comfortable with it. He recently accepted an offer from Blue Jackets GM Jarmo Kekalainen to join the club’s professional scouting staff and could not be happier to stay close to the game that has given him and his family so much.
“Anytime you do something for 25 years of your life and someone snatches that away from you, it’s a really difficult thing to cope with,” Geoffrion told BlueJackets.com. “I’m just about fully recovered, and since I’ve gotten back into things and talked with doctors about what I could do and couldn’t do with the recovery and risks, I decided that it just wasn’t worth the risk anymore.
“It’s bittersweet, but at the same time, Jarmo and his whole staff have given me an opportunity to stay close to the game and do what I love, and be close to what I know best. I’m really excited to get started with this.”
Moving from hockey player to hockey scout is a significant career change. For Geoffrion and fiancée Katelyn – who also attended the University of Wisconsin, where Blake was a Hobey Baker winner in 2010 – there are bigger days ahead. So when the family got together to discuss the decision, there was very little deliberation and a lot of unison.
“Anytime you do something for 25 years of your life and someone snatches that away from you, it’s a really difficult thing to cope with." - Blake Geoffrion
“There’s so much more to life than just the game of hockey,” Geoffrion said. “It’s been a part of me since I’ve been alive with my family being so involved, but there’s a lot more to life. I’m getting married in August and I’m looking forward to starting our family here sooner rather than later, and I wanted to be able to do more and not have that risk if I were to play again.
“Everyone was a big help. I talked to my family, doctors and trainers and got their thoughts on this, that and the other…everyone was supportive and happy with my decision.”
Geoffrion acknowledged the decision to join the Blue Jackets would not have been possible without the support of Kekalainen, who interviewed him during his draft year as the director of amateur scouting with the St. Louis Blues.
One of the most appealing things about Columbus was the chance to be part of an organization with a bright future, he said. Like any hockey fan, Geoffrion has followed the offseason closely and is excited about the pieces coming together.
“I got a phone call from Jarmo and he wanted to know if I was interested in becoming involved with scouting,” Geoffrion said. “I hadn’t really thought about it and hadn’t been offered that title before. I thought about it and decided it was something I wanted to do.
“I think the Columbus Blue Jackets have a really bright future with some of the moves they’ve made – especially up top (in management) – and with the players they signed on July 5. This is a great opportunity for me to come in and grow with a good organization, and I’m excited for it.”
Geoffrion also hopes that this next phase of his life and career can get him on track to pursue the second goal he set for himself: he wants to one day become a general manager in the NHL and run his own team, and though he’s starting down that road a bit sooner than he expected, it hasn’t dampened his anticipation.
Upon winning the Hobey Baker in 2010, he told NHL.com that he would become only the second person in the Geoffrion family to graduate with a college degree. If there’s a silver lining in what has been an arduous recovery period, it’s that he is well-suited to take on whatever challenges he chooses.
A self-proclaimed nine handicap on the golf course who enjoys staying active outdoors and occasionally doing some fishing, Geoffrion is looking forward to his next challenge with far less worry and risk than would have been posed by the previous one.
“The main thing is that I’m excited about it,” Geoffrion said. “My second goal in life was to become the GM of a team one day, and I think as a scout, that’s the first step in the process. I look at it as a great opportunity, and the biggest thing for me is having the chance to grow and get better in a scouting role. I get a feel for the business side of hockey and maybe grow into becoming a GM.
“I’m really excited; I’m going to learn a lot here from two really good people and I can’t wait to get started.”