The name “Geoffrion” is one of the most respected names in the history of hockey, and the Nashville community had the chance to watch the legacy of that name grow right in their own back yard.
Blake Geoffrion, grandson of the legendary Bernie “Boom Boom” Geoffrion and son of Danny Geoffrion, grew up in the Nashville area and would go on to become one of the most important pieces in Nashville’s hockey history. Geoffrion was there from day one with the Predators, although not in the way you might expect.
The Predators played their first game as a franchise on Oct. 10, 1998, against the Florida Panthers, and Geoffrion and his family were there to see it unfold.
“I’ll never forget. We were sitting up section 308 or 306 on the front row there, season ticket holders. My whole family was there, and the Predators were playing the Florida Panthers. That was my first NHL game. I had watched a bunch on T.V. but it was my first NHL game that I went to, and all I could keep thinking was how cool it would be to play the game of hockey as a job. From then on I was hooked. I had always heard all these stories my dad and my grandfather had spoke about, but to actually see that in person was pretty unbelievable,” Geoffrion said.
Geoffrion knew that he wanted to play in the NHL, but nobody had ever been drafted into the league from Tennessee. After all, the Predators had only just arrived and the youth hockey scene in Nashville wasn’t vibrant. However, Geoffrion played in Nashville youth hockey, and it ended up being a fantastic experience both for him and for Nashville’s youth hockey community as a whole.
“I still have a lot of good buddies that I played with growing up that I still keep in contact with,” Geoffrion said. “The game has grown tremendously down here. We now have, I think, five or six sheets of ice. When I was growing up, we had one. We had two ice sessions a week, one for 45 minutes and the other for 45 minutes as well, but we split the ice with the another team.”
Youth hockey in Nashville and the surrounding area has grown by leaps and bounds since Geoffrion first arrived in Nashville. He’s one of the pioneers of that growth, and it’s something that he takes to heart.
“It’s pretty humbling,” Geoffrion said. “I owe a lot of that to my mom and dad for all the hard work they put in, and all the early mornings they drove me to the rink and everything else. There were a lot of people that believed in me and always stayed behind me. Those are the people that deserve all the credit.”
Geoffrion eventually left Nashville for the U.S. National Development Team Program and for the University of Wisconsin after that. He spent four years at Wisconsin, and won the Hobey Baker Award in his senior season as the top player in the NCAA. Geoffrion thoroughly enjoyed his time playing college hockey at Wisconsin.
“The one word that I always use is camaraderie. The relationships and friendships that I had there with not only my class but some of these younger classes when I became captain there was bar none. We actually had a blast on and off the ice. We all loved each other. We were like a brotherhood there, and the camaraderie I have and the relationships I have with those guys will never be broken,” Geoffrion said.
Before his college career was complete, Geoffion had been drafted by his hometown team in Nashville in the 2006 NHL Entry Draft in the second round, making him the first player ever from Tennessee to be drafted into the NHL. Although he was very happy with being selected by the Predators, he didn’t expect to land in Nashville.
“I couldn’t believe it because I thought I was going to go to Montreal. They had three picks before Nashville even had one, and when they said ‘Brentwood, Tennessee,’ I just couldn’t believe it,” Geoffrion said.
A season after winning the Hobey Baker Award at Wisconsin, Geoffrion made his NHL debut with the Predators on February 26, 2011, against the Dallas Stars. That game made him the first fourth-generation player in the history of the NHL. However, the highlight of that season came for him in Buffalo on March 20, 2011, against the Sabres. Geoffrion recorded a hat trick in a key game for the Predators.
“I tell everyone the first thing is those were probably the three ugliest goals I’ve ever scored, but a hat trick’s a hat trick, right?” Geoffrion said. “It was awesome. I couldn’t believe that all three of those happened, especially at the time when you’re in the middle of a playoff race and you need every point you could possibly get, down 3-1 and I scored two goals to tie it late, and then we won in overtime on a Martin Erat one-timer. It was awesome, it really was.”
After spending 20 regular season games and 12 playoff games with the Predators in the 2010-11 season, Geoffrion was traded from Nashville to Montreal in the 2011-12 season after he played in just 22 games for the Predators. Suddenly, he found himself in the same organization with which his family was so deeply rooted.
“It was incredible,” Geoffrion said. “I had an absolute blast there. The first game in Montreal was phenomenal. The fan base and the crowd and everything else, the history in that building; it doesn’t even feel like a hockey game. It really doesn’t. It feels like some kind of show that you’re putting on or something. The feeling is awesome.”
Everything changed shortly after that in November of 2012. He suffered a skull fracture and a concussion while playing in a game for the Hamilton Bulldogs of the AHL while the NHL Lockout was going on, and was ultimately forced to retire from hockey at the age of 25 due to health concerns.
Even though Geoffrion was dealt a tough hand, he’s rebounded from that incident well. He’s been able to continue to stay in the game even if he can’t play it anymore at the highest level.
“Life’s been great. I got married in August to my wife, who resides in Chicago. That’s where home is now for us. I’ve been scouting with the Columbus Blue Jackets, and it’s been very different being on the management side but it’s been great. I love it,” Geoffrion said.
From the outside looking in, it’s easy to look at Geoffrion’s NHL career as a tragedy of sorts. After all, he was forced to retire at the young age of 25 due to an injury. However, that’s simply just not the way Geoffrion looks at his situation.
“People always say to me ‘I can’t believe your career ended so short,’ and I say ‘Let me tell you what I accomplished in my career and all the things that I did and how lucky I was, how thankful I was,” Geoffrion said. “There are so many people these days that will never probably experience anything close to what I’ve experienced so I don’t look at the negative side, I look at the positive side of things.
Geoffrion got to play for the Predators and Canadiens in his NHL career, which were the two organizations that meant the most to him throughout his entire life. His playing days may be behind him, but Geoffrion has found peace with what happened to him and has been able to look at the bright side of what he was able to do in his career.
“Hobey Baker, scholarship, relationships I’ve had all the way through my life, the people I’ve met,” Geoffrion said. “I played for my hometown team. I played for the Montreal Canadiens where my grandfather was and my dad and my great grandfather. I scored a hat trick in the NHL. The things I’m rolling off my tongue, it’s like ‘Wow, that’s pretty freaking unbelievable.’ I don’t look at the negatives in life. I think everything happens for a reason. I’m starting a new chapter, and we’ll see what it holds.”