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Cancer claims life of hockey legend Geoffrion

by Staff Writer / New York Rangers

Bernie "Boom Boom" Geoffrion, a legendary Hall of Famer who played his final two NHL seasons with the New York Rangers and later coached the Blueshirts, died of stomach cancer on Saturday at the age of 75.

Geoffrion's No. 5 was retired by the Montreal Canadiens prior to Saturday's game against the Rangers. The jersey retirement ceremony had been planned long before Geoffrion was diagnosed with cancer, which was discovered during surgery last week.

In a tribute to their former player and coach, the Rangers and Canadiens wore Geoffrion's No. 5 on their helmets for Saturday's game at the Bell Centre.

Best known as the inventor of the slap shot, which was the source of his nickname, Geoffrion also won six Stanley Cup championships in Montreal, and was a key member of the Canadiens' dynasty of the late 1950s. In 1960-61, he had his best single season, leading the NHL with 50 goals and 95 points to win the Hart Trophy as the league MVP.

Geoffrion's other accomplishments included the Calder Trophy as the league's rookie of the year in 1951-52, three postseason All-Star selections and and 11 All-Star Game appearances. In 883 career NHL games, he scored 393 goals and had 822 points

Following the 1963-64 season, Geoffrion briefly retired from hockey to pursue a coaching career with the Quebec Aces of the AHL. He got another chance at the NHL when the Canadiens waived his rights on June 9, 1966, opening the door for him to be claimed by the Rangers.

In 117 career games with the Blueshirts, Geoffrion had 22 goals and 41 assists, helping the team reach the playoffs in both 1967 and 1968.

Following his permanent retirement in 1968, a 37-year-old Geoffrion was named head coach of the New York Rangers, but missed much of the season because ulcers forced him to have surgery to remove part of his stomach. During his time behind the bench, the Rangers went 22-18-5. In addition to this first head coaching stint in the NHL, he went on to become the first head coach of the Atlanta Flames and later returned home to Montreal as coach of the Canadiens.

Geoffrion was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1972, the same year he took over as head coach of the Flames, whom he led to a 77-92-39 record from 1972-75, including a playoff berth in Year 2. The Flames were swept in four games by the Philadelphia Flyers, and Geoffrion stepped down midway through the next season because of health reasons.

Geoffrion, with his thick French-Canadian accent, moved into broadcasting for the Flames and became a popular color analyst alongside Jiggs McDonald. Even after the team moved to Calgary in 1980, Geoffrion remained in Atlanta for the rest of his life.

In what is believed to be his last hockey appearance, Geoffrion presented Thrashers forward Ilya Kovalchuk with the Rocket Richard Cup on Oct. 22. The "Boomer" received a standing ovation from Atlanta's fans.

Geoffrion's sons, Danny and Bob, both followed in their father's hockey footsteps. Danny was a first-round pick of the Montreal Canadiens in 1978 and played 111 career games with the Habs and Winnipeg Jets. Both he and Bob honored their father with speeches at Saturday night's jersey retirement ceremony.
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