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Nashville Predators left wing J.P. Dumont (71) celebrates with Blake Geoffrion, right, after Steve Sullivan scored against the Anaheim Ducks in the second period of Game 6 of a first-round NHL Stanley Cup playoff hockey series, Sunday, April 24, 2011, in Nashville, Tenn. (Mark Humphrey/AP)
Nashville Predators left wing J.P. Dumont (71) celebrates with Blake Geoffrion, right, after Steve Sullivan scored against the Anaheim Ducks in the second period of Game 6 of a first-round NHL Stanley Cup playoff hockey series, Sunday, April 24, 2011, in Nashville, Tenn. (Mark Humphrey/AP)

NHL playoffs

Blake Geoffrion has hockey in his blood Add to ...

Of course they call him "Boomer."

What else would the Nashville Predators call Blake Geoffrion, the progeny of Montreal Canadiens legend Bernie (Boom Boom) Geoffrion? It's a most obvious nickname, for a most unique player.

The Predators winger is the first fourth-generation player in NHL history. He is the grandson of Bernie Geoffrion, whom he called "Pappy," and the great-grandson of the legendary Howie Morenz, but he is also the first Tennessee product to make it to the NHL.

He plays for the in-state team no less, but while bred from hockey royalty, Blake Geoffrion travelled hockey's hinterland before becoming a cog in Nashville's lineup.

"They also call me Bam Bam," said Geoffrion, the reigning Hobey Baker Award winner from the University of Wisconsin. "When I was at Wisconsin, they called me that as a knock. [Predators defenceman Ryan Suter]is always around Wisconsin, hanging out in the summer, so he brought that here."

In his first 16 games, there were more booms than bams.

Geoffrion had six goals, including two game-winners and a hat trick to beat the Buffalo Sabres on March 20. All that while averaging less than eight minutes of ice time a game for the offensively-challenged Predators.

He entered the playoffs on a 15-game drought, and was still searching for his first playoff goal heading into a Western Conference semi-final against the Vancouver Canucks.

"He's a great hockey story anywhere around the world, but he's really great story in Nashville," Preds head coach Barry Trotz said in March. "A lot of people aren't caught up to the whole history of the family, but they are learning that … and it's a huge story for the non-traditional franchises."

Geoffrion's tale begins when his father's career ended, but his NHL ancestry begins in the game's Old Testament.

Morenz was the sport's first superstar, its Babe Ruth, before suffering a fractured leg during a game in January of 1937, and succumbing weeks later to what legends holds was a broken heart because he could no longer play hockey. Boom Boom popularized the slap shot, was the second player to score 50 goals, and earned his most appropriate and memorable nickname as a true character of the game.

But for Geoffrion's father, hockey was not as glamorous.

After five professional seasons, including 111 NHL games with the Canadiens and Winnipeg Jets, a bid in Japan, and an awkward tenure in Montreal under his coach/father, Danny Geoffrion moved to south Florida in the mid-1980s to begin a new life. He met his bride, Kelly, and started a family that included Blake and his three brothers, before taking an insurance job in suburban Nashville and vowing not to become a pushy hockey dad.

"Going to the rink every day for 20 years wasn't appealing to me," Danny Geoffrion said. "I tried to discourage them from hockey. I told them, 'Why don't you hang out at the country club?' "

But the first time Blake was on skates, around age two, the father noticed the family business ran strong with his son, and said to his Floridian wife: "Your life is about to change."

Indeed, they travelled Dixie interstates with their minor hockey teams, playing tournaments in Memphis, Knoxville and Huntsville, Ala. Other than Atlanta, where Boom Boom had settled in retirement after coaching the Flames, the Geoffrion name didn't catch much attention.

Blake Geoffrion, however, developed a close relationship with his Pappy, and would often listen as his verbose grandfather, in his thick accent, encouraged him to shoot "da" puck. Geoffrion, 23, was among the last to speak with Boom Boom before he died on the morning of March 11, 2006, hours before the Canadiens retired his No. 5 sweater at a Bell Centre ceremony.

His slap shot isn't as booming, but along the journey, from an Indiana boarding school, to the U.S. national program in Michigan, to Wisconsin, Geoffrion turned into a goal scorer. He was selected in the second round of the 2006 NHL draft, and took five years to reach the NHL, but Trotz described him as a "blue-paint player" with the hands to finish in tight quarters.

"Dad would've turned 80 [in February]and I know he would be proud because that was one thing [Blake playing in the NHL]he kept talking about," Danny Geoffrion said. "Everyone thinks it's an easy path and it's not. I told [Blake]that it's tough getting there, but it's tougher staying there. I know, because I didn't get to stay."

 

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