Sebastian Geoffrion is well aware of his pedigree. He has heard the stories of his Hall of Fame great-grandfather Howie Morenz’s legacy. The way Morenz was considered one of the NHL’s first true stars and the way the city of Montreal spent months mourning his untimely death. Sebastian has watched his grandfather, Bernie “Boom Boom” Geoffrion, have his No. 5 jersey raised into the rafters of Montreal’s Bell Centre. He grew up receiving advice from his father, Danny Geoffrion, who saw time on NHL ice. He watched as his brother, Blake Geoffrion, collect junior and collegiate accolades while becoming the first Tennessee-born prospect to sign an NHL contract.
The amalgamation of familiarity and genetics might lead one to suspect that finally making it to the Predators 2013 Development Camp would bring solidarity to an otherwise nerve-racking experience.
“With the last name, my brother having been here, and my grandfather… I had the shakes before going out there,” Sebastian said. “But once you get out there, it’s just like you’re playing hockey again.”
Entering development camp, Geoffrion has taken a different route than most of the other prospects. Growing up in Brentwood presented obstacles that many Northern-bred prospects do not have to conquer. However convoluted his route, it is one that has led him one step closer from his Brentwood home to the ice within Bridgestone Arena.
Sebastian fully committed himself to hockey after his eighth grade year when he enrolled at Culver Military Academy in Culver, Ind. Culver boasts a storied hockey program that has produced former Predators Ryan Suter and Sebastian’s older brother, Blake Geoffrion. While at Culver, Sebastian played under veteran prep coach Al Clark, who led the Eagles to 20 state titles during his tenure.
Upon graduation from Culver, Geoffrion played a year in the top junior hockey league in the U.S., the United States Hockey League. It was there he began to cultivate his scrappy and intrepid style of play.
“It kind of just came upon me when I was in juniors.” he explains. “I was a scorer in high school and knew the team I was going to already had their goal scorers. I knew I wasn’t putting up the points like I should. I knew if I wanted to stay on the team I had to do something. So, I changed my game a little bit to finishing every single hit and not being afraid to drop the gloves.”
After originally signing with the Lincoln Stars, he was traded to the Indiana Ice for future considerations after just 14 games. The move put a chip on his shoulder that bolstered his drive to not only to improve, but to prove wrong those who doubted him. Garnering praise from his Indiana coach, Jeff Blashill – who has since gone on to become head coach of the Grand Rapids Griffins – Geoffrion became known for his tenacity and ability to swing the momentum of a game by beleaguering the opposition. In 42 games with the club, Geoffrion posted 13 points (7g-6a) and 170 penalty minutes, tops in the USHL. Additionally during his time with the Ice, he forged a relationship with his roommate, Predators 2010 sixth-round pick, and now fellow development camper, Anthony Bitetto.
Following his season in the USHL, Geoffrion made his way to the University of Alabama-Huntsville where he began his collegiate career. As a freshman he saw immediate ice time, registering 2 goals and 18 penalty minutes in 23 games. The Chargers posted a 12-18-3 on their way to the 2010 College Hockey America (CHA) tournament championship and an NCAA regional berth. In the NCAA Northwest Regional in Fort Wayne, Ind., the Chargers narrowly lost to No. 1-ranked Miami, 2-1. The rest of his collegiate career gave way to a litany of obstacles as tumultuous times plagued the UAH program. Following the 2010 campaign, head coach Danton Cole left for the same job with the U.S. National Team Development Program, the CHA ceased to exist and left the school without a conference, and the program nearly folded when then school president Malcolm Portera announced that funding to the team would be eliminated following the 2011-12 season. However, in the December of 2011 the tides turned and new school president Dr. Robert Altenkirch reversed the decision to cut the program. UAH was then chosen as the host institution for the 2012 Frozen Four in Tampa, Fla. Then, in January 2013, the Chargers joined the Western Collegiate Hockey Association and recently hired Mike Corbett as their coach.
Sebastian is proud of his alma mater and is brimming with confidence when talking about the future of the program.
“I’ve got to say, it’s going to be one of the best programs coming up in the next five years.”
In 106 games played in the Chargers’ blue and white, Geoffrion stayed true to his tenacious style of play, posting 17 points (8g-9a) and 254 penalty minutes. Upon graduation, Sebastian briefly played with the Arizona Sundogs of the Central Hockey League, appearing in 12 games and posting 6 points (4g-2a) and 36 penalty minutes.
Geoffrion is concise in his speech and visibly determined. Despite the unconventional route and every hindrance he has faced before being invited to this week’s camp, he knows that there is a time and a place for sentimentality.
“I saw the first game here when I was a little kid. So, to pull a jersey over the head with all the other guys is pretty cool,” he said. “I’m definitely grateful for being here… but I try not to let that stuff get to me or think about it, because it then affects you. I try to wake up and think it’s just another day at the rink and go from there.”
In addition to focusing on the chance to continue his playing career with the Predators, the awareness of his brother’s unknown fate in hockey is still a stark and not-too-distant episode. On Nov. 9, 2012 while playing with the American Hockey League’s Hamilton Bulldogs, Blake Geoffrion was on the receiving end of a punishing hip check that sent him airborne. The subsequent fall brought his head down on the blade of a skate, causing him to suffer a compressed skull fracture. The injury required emergency surgery and has him, for the moment, indefinitely sidelined while contemplating his future. Despite the severity of his brother’s injury, Sebastian has not let the incident weigh on his psyche.
“It was a freak accident, it could have happened to anyone,” he pragmatically said. “It’s just unfortunate that it happened to him that soon and to his career. It could happen to me tomorrow.”
In all likelihood it will not happen to him tomorrow, but the positive spin on an unfortunate turn has provided him with an outlook that will certainly play in his favor. Sebastian has the heart and the grit that will carry him while vying for a spot in the organization. However, he believes he brings more to the game than simply fervor.
“I’m a hard-working forward who gets under the other teams’ skin. I try to outwork any opponent,” he says. “I’m not too bad on the PK.”
With three days remaining in development camp, his prospects of receiving a spot have yet to be determined. Regardless of the outcome, he will have lived up to his lineage and shown what heart can do for those who choose to use it.