Category Archives: Bernard Geoffrion

Retired New Brunswick Columnist Shares Some Great Habs Stories

Eddie St. Pierre, retired columnist for the Moncton Times and Transcript, started writing sports in 1950 and over the years had many connections with the Montreal Canadiens. He shares some great stories here;

“During my long reporting career with this newspaper (I’ve just begun my 60th year of affiliation with the paper, having joined on Dec. 4, 1950) I had the honour of interviewing or meeting many of the team’s top stars who played on one or more of the team’s 24 Stanley Cups, including the “big three” of Maurice (Rocket) Richard, Jean Beliveau and Guy Lafleur, as well as Henri (Pocket Rocket) Richard, Bernie (Boom Boom) Geoffrion, Bobby Rousseau, Danny Grant, John Ferguson, Yvan Cournoyer, 91-year-old Elmer Lach, Doug Harvey, Serge Savard, Guy Lapointe, Jacques Plante, Ken Dryden and others along with coaches Hector (Toe) Blake, Scotty Bowman, Jean Perron, Jacques Demers, Guy Carbonneau and current coach Jacques Martin plus front-office personnel such as Sam Pollock, Floyd Curry and others.

* The Rocket, who passed away May 27, 2000 in his 79th year, made the biggest impact on me. I saw him play for the first time at Canadiens’ intrasquad games at the old Stadium in 1954. (Note: Some Montreal players complained to police that they were overcharged by a cab driver. A story in the Moncton Times said that bruising defenceman Emile (Butch) Bouchard told police that he, along with four teammates, took a cab from the Brunswick Hotel to the Stadium and the taxi driver demanded $2.50. Before game time, a policeman was summoned to the Canadiens’ dressing room where Ken Mosdell told the same story. Both players said they told the cab driver to collect his fare from club officials.)

During the Canadiens’ stay here, former senior hockey player Charlie Poirier was working as the stickboy when someone broke a window in the dressing room at the Stadium during a game. The thief or thieves reached in from the outside and stole Jean Beliveau’s street pants and belongings.

Meanwhile, The Rocket and I crossed paths on many occasions afterwards, especially at charity hockey and softball games in the city. What an extraordinary individual. When he died, former NHLer Danny Grant — who, like The Rocket, had a 50-goal season (he turned the trick with the Detroit Red Wings in 1974-75) — pointed to the other, seldom-seen side of The Rocket.

“What stood out is the fact that he was such a nice person,” said Grant, who was a member of the Montreal organization at the time. “He was just a wonderful person. He was very quiet, very reserved and I don’t think he said ‘I did this’ once in his whole life. He was more interested in other people than promoting himself.”

During his career, the Hockey Hall of Famer and member of the Order of Canada set many records. Several have been broken, but many remain. In March 1944, The Rocket scored all five Montreal goals in a 5-1 playoff win over the Toronto Maple Leafs.

The three stars, chosen by veteran sportswriter/columnist Elmer Ferguson, who once worked for the Moncton Transcript, were announced as “Maurice Richard, Maurice Richard and Maurice Richard.” This was the one and only time that one player has been named all three stars.

He ended his career with 544 goals (82 in the playoffs) and won the Stanley Cup eight times.

Richard, whose top salary was $25,000 (equivalent to $200,000 in 2008), was suspended for the balance of the season (only three or four games remained) and the playoffs in 1955 after striking linesman Cliff Thompson during a stick battle with the Bruins’ Hal Laycoe in a game at Boston. The decision by league president Clarence Campbell led to a riot. The game was forfeited to the Detroit Red Wings. The riot outside caused $500,000 in damage.

* Hall of Famer Gordie Drillon of Moncton scored 28 goals and added 22 assists (50 points) during the 1942-43 season. He was 4-2–6 in the playoffs. Meanwhile, the late defenceman, Charlie Phillips, played 17 games early in the season after being called up from the American Hockey League’s Washington Lions. Both Drillon and Phillips are deceased.

* Bill Durnan, one of the Canadiens’ top goaltenders who passed away Oct. 31, 1972 at age 56, was in town for a function several years back. A fellow co-worker, the late Paul Arsenault, was the city’s No. 1 Montreal and Rocket fan. He was in an alcohol rehab facility in the city at the time and Durnham was only too happy to pay him a visit. When Arsenault saw who I was with, emotions got the best of him. He started to cry with joy.

I’ll never forget the time the Canadiens lost to the Red Wings in the Stanley Cup playoffs and the winning goal was scored by Tony Leswick, a pesky forward who usually shadowed the Rocket. While driving him home early one morning, we stopped at a restaurant in Parkton. A Don Messer tune was playing on the jukebox. Sitting down on the floor, Paul banged his fist on the wood. “Anybody but that little (Lewsick),” he repeated over and over.

* The Canadiens always took care of their former players. For years, Harvey (he died on Dec. 26, 1989 at 65) battled alcoholism while suffering from bipolar disorder. The Hockey Hall of Famer who was ranked No. 6 on The Hockey News list of 100 Greatest Hockey Players in 1998, ended up homeless, sleeping in a old railway car.

When his plight became public knowledge, in 1985 he was offered a job with the Canadiens as a scout. I got a call one afternoon from then-Gazette columnist Tim Burke asking me to call him if I saw Harvey around the city. Team president Ronald Corey was very concerned. Coincidentally, I meet Bill Lee later at the Beausejour Club. He had run into Harvey in Sussex. Doug was just on a visit to the Maritimes.

* Goaltender Lorne (Gump) Worsley, one of the last netminders to play without a mask, and I became good friends. (Note: Worsley, who helped the Canadiens win the Stanley Cup four times, died Jan. 16, 2007. He was 77).

Worsley was doing promotional work for Imperial Oil Ltd. and their Esso stations in the off-season during the 1960s. The two of us journeyed to Bathurst once. After returning to Moncton, we stopped at the “famous” Blue Circle around 2 a.m. and Gump got a real charge out of the rough characters, who had been drinking all night at the Union Club or Carpenter’s Club. He felt right at home, cracking jokes and spinning hockey stories for an hour.

In 1965, after a Moncton Minor Football Association dinner, I went fishing around Doaktown on the Miramichi with Gump and other sports personalities. A guide and a case of beer (although Gump preferred Johnny Walker Red) sat between us. The only thing we caught was a few salmon parr, which were tossed back in. CKCW’s Earle Ross slipped off the bank into the water and needed some help. “The biggest fish caught had to be Earle,” quipped Worsley.

On another occasion, I accompanied the Dieppe Bantam Voyageurs, coached by Ray (Toughie) Steeves, to an NHL game at the Montreal Forum. I was in the dressing room chatting with Gump, who was taking short, quick drags off a cigarette in a small area in the dressing room before the game. “Eddie”! Where the hell is Toe,” he asked, referring to Hector (Toe) Blake, the no-nonsense coach who was at the other end of the room. “Let me know if he comes this way. I don’t want to pay any more $100 fines.”

* Former colleague Howie Trainor recalls a fundraising Summer Classic hockey game — East All-Stars vs. West All-Stars — at the Levesque Arena in the 1960s. We would get college, senior, junior and professionals, mostly from the Moncton area, and attempt to secure the services of National Hockey League players who were instructing at hockey schools in the province.

One year, we approached rightwinger Bobby Rousseau, then with the Habs and who was at the Université de Moncton hockey school, to play in the fundraiser for the Lewisville Minor Hockey Association. He gently turned us down, citing the newly formed NHL Players Association, which, he said, barred players from exhibition games without compensation, but he did it with a small smile playing on his lips. Well, nothing ventured, nothing gained, we thought, and asked him how much he needed. “A package of gum and a Coke would do it,” he replied as the smile broadened.

Then we realized he had been pulling our leg all along. Needless to say, he played and his presence bolstered attendance greatly.

* A column on the historic Canadiens wouldn’t be complete without mentioning the late Danny Gallivan, the best play-by-play announcer the Montreal team ever had. He died in February 1993 at 81.

Danny was the voice of the Canadiens, with all the hucksterism than can imply, but he was also their severest critic when individual and team performances weren’t what he felt they should be. The Canadiens teams he covered from 1952 to 1984 were among the best hockey has known, but what he saw was what his audience got. There were no “free passes” for players taking a night off.

He was the best at what he did and he loved what he did — all the more so because his colourful language was devoted almost exclusively to hockey’s best team. It was Geoffrion who had “the cannonading shot.” It was Savard who mastered “the spinerama.” Other teams tried to hire him by offering considerably more money than he was earning in Montreal, but Danny was content to stay put. Danny and I became good friends. He always had time for his follow Maritimers and would go out of his way to obtain tickets for a game at the Forum.”

100 Years Of Heroes And Dreams

001A hundred years of heroes and dreams. A hundred years of men donning the sweater and taking to the ice.  A hundred years of kids watching and reading about, dreaming and becoming. From the time Didier Pitre took a pass from Jack Laviolette and slid it over to Newsy Lalonde, little boys donned the sweater, the bleu, blanc, et rouge, and they became Pitre and Lalonde and all those who came later. kids-sweater1-150x150

From the time Georges Vezina began stopping pucks for Les Canadiens, little kids wanted to stop pucks too, on lakes and ponds and old rinks throughout, and when they wore the sweater, they made the saves with people cheering them, and for all those winter nights near their homes, they were Georges Vezina.

Like magic they became Howie Morenz and Aurele Joliat, Toe Blake and George Hainsworth. They wore the sweater on nights so cold it should be illegal, slapping old rubber balls into snowbanks, stopping cow pies on slews, deking friends and sisters and little kids on the pond. wearing the red or white sweater with the simple and beautiful CH crest sewn on front.004

They became the Rocket, and Lach, Bouchard and Harvey, and they saw the game in their dreams. Behind the skaters they were Durnan and Plante crouched by the net, and when the time came, they were the Boomer and Big Jean scoring on the power play. It unfolded at the Forum and the Olympia and Conn Smythe’s old barn and the outdoor rink frozen in winter at the baseball field. And kids heard them on the radio and saw them in black and white and shuffled their bubblegum cards, wearing the sweater and becoming anyone they wanted to be, just when they wanted to be. 003

The wore the sweater when the Pocket Rocket wouldn’t give up the puck, when the Boomer boomed, and when the Gumper kicked out his pads. They opened boxes at Christmas and there was one to put on right away, and they were Ken Dryden and Lafleur and the Big Bird. And their kids and kid brothers wore the sweater when Patrick Roy and the Little Viking, and then Kovalev and Koivu, graced the ice. Now new guard takes their place, and kids are becoming them too.


They said goodbye to the Forum and to the Rocket and all those others who went when it was time and when it wasn’t time, and they wiped little drops of tears from their sweater. And they smiled and clapped and looked above as they watched the sweaters of their heroes raised triumphantly to the rafters.


Now, every night, the Bell Centre is packed with young and old, still wearing the sweater of the Montreal Canadiens. It’s been a dream for a hundred years. We are Georges, Howie, the Rocket and Guy. We’re Patrick and Saku and Price and Gionta and Markov.

We wear the sweater whether we have a sweater or not, and we celebrate. 002





Cammalleri And The Other Zoomers Learning It Can Be Good To Be A Montreal Canadien

There were lots of goals, a few heart-stopping mistakes, and a delectable, come-from-behind charge, and in the end, it was a roof-raising 5-4 win by the Canadiens over a dangerous Rangers squad, and definitely an eye-popping hockey game that puts a big smile on all Habs fans.

The Montreal bars will be lively tonight!

Mike Cammalleri scored three, including the winner in overtime, and is the hero as we speak. Cammalleri could probably get a free car if he stopped at any car dealership on his way home tonight. He’s probably the most loved guy in the province of Quebec, at least for now and not including Mr. Beliveau, and is a perfect example of why stars around the league should line up to play for the Habs.The ones who refuse to go to Montreal because they don’t want the pressure, just don’t have the balls to be a hero like they could be. 

Cammalleri is probably thinking that right now, there’s no better place on the planet to be a professional athlete.

What a game. But there are a few things that need to be tightened up. Several tense, worrisome times, Montreal couldn’t get the puck out of their own end, and that needs to be addressed. And I’ve come up with a simple answer to the problems Marc-Andre Bergeron has with giving the puck up in his end, which he did on at least two glaring occasions tonight, one which led to a goal. When both Ryan O’Byrne and Andrei Markov are back, turn Bergeron into a forward. He’s a smallish defenceman but would be a good-sized forward. He’s a good skater, and wouldn’t have to concentrate on defensive situations he has problems with. And he can still play the point on the power play with his big shot.

Bergeron could be the new Bernie Geoffrion, who always went back on the power play because of his big shot and added an extra dynamic to the man-advantage. It’s a luxury to have this. And Bergeron could always take a spot from one of the non-existent forwards who I won’t bother to name. But there’s several I can think of.

That was a gutsy and tremendous win by the Canadiens, and even though they’re probably still a few weeks from really becoming a team, this was a huge step. They didn’t quit, they skated hard, D’Agostini and Lapierre combined for a beauty, and best of all, the gang once again showed they are an exciting and offensive bunch that can score more than one or two goals a game.

Random Notes:

Jaroslav Halak won his third straight in nets, but maybe now it’s time to see Carey Price for Mondays clash with the Islanders. Why not?

Montreal came back from down 4-2, with Bergeron making it 4-3, then Cammellari scoring the tying and winning goals.

Because I didn’t quite understand everything that was going on up in the RDS booth, I’d like to know who that young boy was who took over the play-by-play from Pierre Houde for a few minutes. I thought he did a good job, and is he the son of someone, or did he win this?

I will not be applying for any play-by-play work myself. My phobia won’t let me. My voice would quiver and I’d forget where I was.

Bernie Geoffrion Was Born To Play, Sing, And Laugh. But Not To Coach


Bernie “Boom Boom” Geoffrion is well-remembered for many things – His slaphot he worked on when he was nine years old at a time when slapshots weren’t invented yet; His nickname “Boom Boom”, which came about when a Montreal Star sportswriter named Charlie Boire asked Geoffrion if he could call him that after hearing the puck leave his stick and then boom against the boards; His boisterous and good-natured singing on trains and in dressing rooms which led to a few television appearances; His marriage to Marlene, daughter of Howie Morenz; His terrific Hall of Fame career playing right wing on the Canadiens, and teaming up with Doug Harvey at the point to create terror on the power play. With these two firing cannons, no wonder goalies like Chicago’s Glenn Hall would vomit before games;

And of course, the heart-wrenching retiring of his sweater, number five, on March 11, 2006, only hours after he had passed away from stomach cancer. His family stood on the ice, watching the sweater being raised to the rafters, and their tears weren’t the only tears. The Bell Centre was swept away with emotion, and so was I 3000 miles away in my living room.

Geoffrion was one of the greatest Habs ever. Unfortunately, he just wasn’t a great Habs coach.


Geoffrion had been promised the Canadiens coaching job after he retired by owner David Molson. Molson asked him to consider coaching Montreal’s farm team in Quebec for two seasons, then move up to the the Habs. It was all untrue. Molson simply wanted Geoffrion to move aside to make room for a youngster named Yvon Cournoyer. Geoffrion said later the coaching offer sounded good, but if he had known what was really going on, he would’ve stayed and made Cournoyer beat him out of a job fair and square. 0062

Geoffrion went up to Quebec and led the Aces to two first-place finishes, and was promptly fired. And Molson told him there was no room with the big club because Toe Blake wasn’t going anywhere. So he unretired himself and found himself playing for the New York Rangers and eventually coached there for half a season before calling it quits because of an ulcer acting up. Later on, he joined the Atlanta Flames and coached there for slightly more than two years.

And this is where the story of Geoffrion coaching the Habs begins.

When Scotty Bowman left Montreal to begin a new life in Buffalo, Montreal’s GM Irving Grundman picked up the phone and called Geoffrion. It was the offer Geoffrion had been waiting for for 15 years. But after only 30 games behind the bench, he called it quits. “I had three guys telling me what moves to make,” he explained. “Toe Blake, Claude Ruel and Irving Grundman. How can you coach like that?”

Geoffrion had other things to say too: “I’m sick and tired of them. Guys coming in at two or three in the morning, laughing and joking around. They’re not acting like professional athletes. I’m not going to stick around and let everyone in Montreal blame me for what’s happening.”

“(Pierre) Larouche walking through the airport, smoking a cigar, acting like we won the Stanley Cup when we’d lost a game. And I thought Savard would help me. But he’s more interested in his horses.”

But the players had their own thoughts: “He flunked out in New York,” replied Steve Shutt. “he flunked out in Atlanta. Why would he come here, where the fans are so demanding?” Another player said, “You’ve got 17,000 assistant coaches, and the fans are right behind you, win or tie.”

Larry Robinson admitted they came to came to camp out of condition and they knew, with Bowman gone, they wouldn’t be reprimanded for it because Geoffrion, as the new guy, was just trying to fit in. “Geoffrion didn’t want to push us,” said Bob Gainey, “but we needed it.”

“He was a lot more friendly than Scotty,” said Pierre Larouche, “and we took advantage. He just wasn’t made for the job.”

Geoffrion went back to Atlanta, a city he loved, to be with his kids and grandkids, make some funny Miller beer commercials, and to enjoy life. Claude Ruel replaced him behind the bench in Montreal, and the planet continued to spin on its axis as usual. 

 Bernie Geoffrion just wasn’t meant to coach. But he sure was meant to play. He was one of the greatest Habs ever. Number five with the big shot. The guy who loved to sing and laugh and keep his teammates loose. To coach in the NHL one probably has to be a bit of a rotten son of a bitch, and Geoffrion wasn’t that at all. He was simply just a great player. And fans said thank you for that when his sweater went up to the rafters.

Reporting Live From The Press Box, Just Over From Foster And Bill

Tom at the Ryan Coke Experience suggested I do this and I thought about it and decided it might be fun. He said I should watch games from the Montreal Canadiens Memorable Games 10 DVD set, and report on them like they were live and had just happened.

So, live, from the press box in 1960, the game.



It’s a hustling, bustling night for scalpers outside the cathedral on Carleton Street as hockey fans, sensing history could be made, scramble to find a ticket to get in the door. And it seems that price is no issue as reports have come in that some are paying upwards of forty bucks for a seat, even high up in the greys, where it seems you’re watching from outer space.

And why are fans so anxious to witness game four of the Habs-Leafs clash tonight at the Gardens? Because the juggernaut which is the Montreal Canadiens, with four consecutive Stanley Cups already notched, are poised to win another, and fans feel it’ll be tonight. So the air is thick with excitement and anticipation, mixed with the feeling of resignation. Leaf fans know a home-team win might be asking too much.

And no wonder. The Canadiens rolled over the Chicago Black Hawks four straight in a lightening-fast semi final, and have won the first three against the Leafs in this final. It seems that this is a team that isn’t going to be stopped anytime soon. And they’re doing it with the aging and less-than-healthy Maurice Richard, who many feel will retire after this campaign.

My seat in the press box is just to the right of the Gondola, and I can see the father and son team of Foster and Bill Hewitt, poring over their notes and adjusting their microphones. Bill is the play-by-play man now, with Foster only adding colour, and although I can’t hear what they’re saying, I still glance from time to time to see their reaction to the game below. Foster was good, Bill’s even better, but neither of them can compare to Danny Gallivan in Montreal. But there’s no doubt, Foster Hewitt has seen a lot of hockey in his day. And down below, 14,000 fans sit and eat popcorn and read the Canadiens lineup in their programs, and yes indeed, know what is probably coming.

If the first period is any indication, Lord Stanley’s mug will certainly be hoisted tonight. The Canadiens are playing like they can taste it, and at the 8:16 mark, big Jean Beliveau, who’s proved time and again that he’s the heir apparent to the great Rocket, scores on a long shot that Toronto goalie Johnny Bower probably didn’t see. If he saw it, he would have stopped it, I’m sure. And then, just 27 seconds later, Habs defenceman Doug Harvey finds the twine in similiar fashion, with a long shot that also evades Bower.

Doug Harvey is in a league by himself when it comes to blueliners. He controls the game, as he is tonight, making those perfect passes, blocking shots in front of goalie Jacques Plante, and thumping when thumping is called for. There’s no defenceman in the world right now like Harvey, and it makes you wonder if somewhere out there, in some small Canadian town, a young guy may be learning his trade and will take over the crown which Harvey holds now. It’ll be interesting to see if anyone can become as good as Harvey.

Leafs’ coach and taskmaster George “Punch” Imlach must have had a lot to say to his team during the first intermission, because the boys in blue have come out in the second with more enthusiasm, more drive, hitting the post, storming Plante, but to no avail, and now, late in the period, Henri Richard, on a nice set-up from big brother Maurice, puts Les Habitants up 3-0, and certainly the partisan crowd knows now that the team in white, a powerhouse full of future Hall-Of-Famers, will be winning their fifth Stanley Cup on this night.

It’s just a matter of getting the third period over with. Beliveau, who I’m predicting will some day be captain of this great team, scores at 1:21 to make it four-nothing, and I know that somewhere in the depths of Maple Leaf Gardens, the Stanley Cup is being hauled out of its case and readied to hand over to league president Clarence Campbell, who in turn will give it to his old nemesis, the Rocket. 

The bell finally rings to end this affair, and the Leafs’ faithful give both teams a rousing applause. The Leafs have a nice team, with players like Frank Mahovlich, Tim Horton, Red Kelly, and Bob Pulford, but they’re no match for Montreal. Not this year, and not the previous four. Montreal was never going to be denied. It was in the stars. Beliveau, Bernie Geoffrion, Marcel Bonin line, all were sensational. Rocket, Pocket, and all-star Dickie Moore were dangerous on many occasions. Plante was spectacular, so was Harvey. The journeymen – Don Marshall, Claude Provost, Albert Langlois, Bob Turner and the rest, did their jobs magnificently. And Toe Blake stood behind the bench, fedora tilted back, and played his lines masterfully, like a great chess player.

I make my way down to the dressing room with Red Fisher, who’s been covering the Habs for five years now, and it’s bedlam as champagne is poured, toasts are made, players laugh and cry and hug their wives and kids, and much of my Brylcreem just got washed away when Geoffrion decides to give me a champagne bath. I have my stories, although Plante wanted to talk more about the toque he’d just knitted which he believes gives him inner powers, but on the whole, players just said they were happy and were going to savour things for a few days before they escape to their various homes throughout the country for a few months of well-deserved rest.

In the end, I walk out to Carleton Street, where the wind is blowing and rain falling, and make my way to my car. Tonight, there is no Cold War, no Krushchev or Eisenhower, no atomic bombs being tested, and no Elvis Presley corrupting our daughters with his voice and hips. No, tonight, everything is good. Everything is great. Tonight, the Montreal Canadiens win the Stanley Cup.