I recently had “flashbacks” of my former coach, Bernard Geoffrion, most commonly called “Boom-Boom”. “DA BOOMER” as the French Canadian called himself, was the original coach of the Atlanta Flames in 1972 when the NHL expanded to 16 teams. He had a successful career with the Montreal Canadiens. He was known as the first player to use the slap shot, thus came his nickname “BOOM-BOOM”. He is now a member of the NHL Hall of Fame and his #5 was retired by the Canadiens.
I was the first player selected by the Flames’ General Manager Cliff Fletcher. “Boomer” was our coach for the first three seasons. Cliff had made the right decision! The team that he drafted was not skilled but it had a lot of character and knowledge of the game. ”Boomer” was the perfect coach to instill confidence and bring the swagger to the team.
Picture Geoffrion’s personality: a three-piece suit kind of man, always well-groomed, shoes shined and jewelry on the wrist and fingers. He stood with his head up high radiating class and confidence. Add to it a very special “swagger”. He believed in his team and he made players believe in themselves.
Born in Montreal and speaking with a heavy, guttural, loud French accent, he made an impact every time he walked into a room. Despite what “Boomer” projected, however, he was a great family man and a caring man.
“Boomer” was not a tactician or a technical coach. He referred to the video as the “jukebox”. “The jukebox don’t lie” referring to a bad play made by a player. He would always want to prove his point inviting players to watch the “jukebox”.
Another one of his famous quotes was: “Stick with me Kid, I take you to Broadway”. This meant, of course, if a player followed his advice, he would succeed.
He was also known for his motivational speeches. His most famous one was in Boston Gardens when we, the New Atlanta Flames visited the BIG BAD BRUINS, a top team that year. Their roster was full of future Hall of Famers like Phil Esposito, John Bucyk, Gerry Cheevers, not to mention the greatest player to ever play the game, Bobby Orr. In his pre- game speech,”Boomer” attempted to minimize the Bruins’ talent. “Dey are not better dan you!” “dey are not dat good I tell you!” “WHO DEY GOT”? “DEY GOT OLD PLAYER, DEY GOT PLAYER DAT PLAYED IN THE MINOR LEAGUE LAST YEAR! I WOULD NOT TRADE ANY ONE OF YOU GUY FOR ANY ONE OF DEIR GUY!!!!!”. The players looked at each other, then looked at the coach with a smirk on their face, knowing that BOBBY ORR was on their team…Boomer, being a fast thinker, realized that he had gone too far in his attempt to down play the Bruins and said: “WELL, MAYBE I TRADE ONE OR TWO PLAYER!”
I have great memories of “DA BOOMER”. He could make you laugh, he could make you cry. He wasn’t afraid of confrontations and to tell it like it is. He did everything with passion and conviction. He was the man that a bunch of expansion players needed. THANKS BOOMER!
HAVE A GREAT HOCKEY DAY!
Phil Myre (philmyretalkshockey.com) Blogs every Tuesday and Friday