Geoffrion's No. 5 raised at Bell Centre
Geoffrion's No. 5 retired
3/11/2006 11:06:19 PM
MONTREAL (CP) - With his grieving family looking on, Montreal Canadiens great Bernard (Boom Boom) Geoffrion's jersey was raised to the Bell Centre rafters on Saturday night.
Geoffrion, a two-time NHL scoring champion and six-time Stanley Cup winner, died of stomach cancer early Saturday morning in Atlanta, on the day his No. 5 sweater was retired before the Canadiens' 1-0 win over the New York Rangers.
Rather then cancel the ceremony, family members who were still in Atlanta flew up to Montreal so the entire clan could see Geoffrion remembered by the team he starred on for 14 seasons in the 1950s and 1960s.
His wife Marlene, who fought off tears, children Dan, Bob and Linda, as well as a dozen other family members were on the red carpet covering the Bell Centre ice for the 40-minute ceremony.
They were joined by eight of Geoffrion's teammates from the Canadiens dynasty that won five straight Cups from 1956 to 1960 - Dickie Moore, Henri Richard, Emile (Butch) Bouchard, Jean-Guy Talbot, Marcel Bonin, Phil Goyette, Andre Pronovost and Dollard St-Laurent.
"It's not really a happy night, but it's good to see the Geoffrion family here," said Talbot. "They have a lot of guts, like their dad.
"It would be nice to see the Boomer, but he's gone, so there's nothing we can do about it. It was a beautiful celebration."
The sell-out crowd of 21,273 stood and cheered for several minutes after a 10-minute video was shown on the scoreboard.
It was mostly testimonials from former teammates and even a former adversary - old-time Toronto goalie Johnny Bower, who said he used to say a prayer every time Geoffrion broke down the wing and wound up for a shot.
Most spoke of Geoffrion's goal-scoring skill, the slapshot he is said to have invented, and his smiling, outgoing personality.
The grandchildren as a group burst into tears as a banner with the popular right winger's number was raised to the rafters alongside that of the No. 7, retired in 1937 for Howie Morenz.
Morenz, Montreal's first superstar, was Marlene Geoffrion's father. He died in 1937 after catching an infection in a hospital while being treated for a broken leg. His funeral was held at the Forum on the same date, March 11, in 1937.
"The main thing he wanted was for our kids to see who he was and what he was all about," said Dan Geoffrion, a former NHL forward with Montreal and the Winnipeg Jets. "You could see they got caught up in the emotion.
"They've seen the albums, the tapes, they've heard all the stories, but every one of them lost it because they saw what he was all about."
One of the weeping grandchildren, Dan's son Blake, plays for the U.S. under-18 team and is slated to go in the second round of the NHL draft in June.
"He's already got his number picked out - 75," said Dan.
Linda Geoffrion's husband is Montreal native Hartland Monahan, a former winger with the Washington Capitals.
Dan addressed the crowd in English while his brother Bob spoke to them in French. Players from both teams lined the blue-lines as the banner was raised.
"This is the realization of Dad's dream and brings closure to his career," Dan Geoffrion told the crowd. "I know Dad wanted to celebrate it all with you."
Geoffrion, who lived in Atlanta since the 1970s, was at the Bell Centre on Oct. 15 when it was announced his No. 5 and the No. 12 of Moore and former captain Yvan Cournoyer would be retired this season. Cournoyer and Moore's jerseys went up on Nov. 12.
The March 11 date and the game against New York was chosen because Geoffrion played for the Rangers during a two-year comeback in the mid-1960s.
It was also the 10th anniversary of the final game ever played at the Montreal Forum, where Geoffrion scored many of his 393 career goals.
Many felt that Geoffrion deserved the honour years ago and the team waited too long, but Dan disagreed.
"This is how it happened and we have to move on," he said.
Geoffrion's cancer was discovered during a check-up two weeks ago. Doctors operated last week and found the disease had spread too much to be removed.
Most of the family was already in Montreal when Geoffrion took a bad turn on Thursday and needed to be placed in a hospice.
"We were close," said Moore. "It hurt me when little Linda called to tell me Boomer was gone.
"It's very sad. You don't find guys like this. The ovation he got from the fans - my God. It's too late, but I'm sure he heard it all."
Added Bouchard: "I don't feel too well tonight because I'm very emotional. Boom Boom, I coached him as a junior. I recommended him to the Canadiens and he did a fine job."
Montreal defenceman Craig Rivet said the ceremony was an emotional one for him.
"I had a tear in my eye," he said. "You really feel for the family.
"It really goes to show that it means a lot to play for this team. I don't think people realize that to put on the red, white and blue sweater, with the great players who played ahead of us, that it's truly an honour."