AT FIRST, Bernie (Boom Boom) Geoffrion's nickname was not an entirely complimentary reference to his slap shot, a novelty he helped popularize in the NHL. Bestowed on him by a sportswriter when young Bernard played junior hockey in the 1940s, the moniker described the sounds heard when Geoffrion unleashed his notoriously inaccurate slapper--one boom when his stick hit the puck, another when the rubber flew past the goal and crashed into the boards.
Not that Geoffrion, who died of stomach cancer last Saturday at age 75, minded. The Hall of Famer eventually found the net with regularity: He scored 393 goals in 16 NHL seasons in the 1950s and '60s, all but two with the Canadiens, and played on six Stanley Cup winners. And no one enjoyed a good joke more than Boom Boom, one of the Original Six's most charismatic stars. He starred in popular Miller Lite ads, and the Atlanta Flames hired him as their first coach in 1972--more for the power of his personality than for his bench acumen. (He once told a friend, "There are three things to hockey--skating and shooting.")
Geoffrion died hours before his number 5 was to be retired by the Canadiens; his sweater now hangs from the rafters of the Bell Centre next to that of his father-in-law, Montreal legend Howie Morenz. Geoffrion's son Dan told the crowd, "The first time Dad took my mom on a date ... he told her that one day his sweater would hang up there next to her father's. Today, he's kept that promise."