Thursday, July 18, 2013

Happy trails, Bam Bam

This isn't the kind of thing you ever want to see a hockey player have to live with.
When the news came out that Blake Geoffrion would have to retire from pro hockey following his skull fracture earlier this season, I didn't know how to react. I may not know him, and he may not have been part of the Canadiens organization for very long, but his announcement hurt. I don't know what it's like to be in his situation: I've never had an injury that serious, and I've never been able to see a lifelong dream come true or accomplish a goal as big as his: playing in the NHL, the Geoffrion equivalent of a family business.

I was excited to see him traded to Montreal. I wrote about it, recalling how it felt like things had come full circle: my grandfather watched his grandfather play for the Habs, and now I would get to watch Blake. And I did. I had tickets to his first-ever game at the Bell Centre, with the Hamilton Bulldogs. Czechtacular and I sat in the first row, underneath his grandfather's retired jersey and chose his new nickname: "Bam Bam." We cheered until we lost our breath and banged our hands on the glass so much that they hurt. (I woke up the next morning and my palms still hurt.)

Our next Bulldogs game would not be so fun. We were excited to see him, and the whole team. I remember bringing a friend to the game and telling her about him, because she didn't know that he was a fourth-generation NHL player. And later that evening, the injury happened. It was so fast that I didn't even notice at first who it was. The video footage of it looks much scarier than it did in person. Turns out the video footage was right, and it was a career-ending injury. I hoped I'd never have to see one, but there I was, in the house for a player's last game ever.
We didn't take a lot of pictures at that game. This was one of the only ones #57 is in.
The recovery process was really hard for Geoffrion. It sounds as though the decision to retire was easier for him than I expected it to be - which is good, because it was the right decision to make.

I wrote my first draft of this post months ago, when the news first broke that Geoffrion was planning on retiring. I ended it by hoping he'd find a career path that he enjoyed, and that maybe hockey fans would get to see him again. Now that I know he's accepted a scouting job with the Blue Jackets, that hope has been fulfilled. A lifetime in hockey will be put to good use, and he'll have an impact on the future of the NHL. Now, like the day he was traded to the Habs, I can be happy for him again.

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