Geoffrion puts on skates again, nears decision on future
Fourth-generation NHL player Blake Geoffrion skated on the ice a week ago for the first time since a harrowing head injury last November, but is closing in on deciding whether he'll ever return to competitive hockey.
Geoffrion, a Brentwood native, ran a small hockey camp for Squirts to Midgets youth players last week at Lake Forest Academy in Chicago, where he now lives.
"I didn't move on the ice very much...It felt great to get back out there, even though I just kind of glided around," he said.
|Brentwood native Blake Geoffrion is shown in his first game at Montreal as a fourth-generation player for the Canadiens.|
A former player for his hometown Nashville Predators, Geoffrion is expected to make a decision sometime this month on whether to return or retire.
His dad, former NHL player Danny Geoffrion, has given his fatherly advice when asked: "I just tell him 'Blake, if it's me in your position, I'm done.' This is trauma to the brain, and trauma to the brain is pretty heavy."
Geoffrion, 25, has had an almost miraculous outcome after an opponent's hockey skate blade sliced open his head and fractured his skull in a freak accident. The injury took place on a vicious hit during minor-league Hamilton's game in the Montreal Canadiens' arena on Nov. 9.
"I'm still kind of debating, going back and forth on a couple of things but I'm going to decide here pretty soon," he said Monday.
He's mostly weighing the risk he would be taking if he comes back to hockey, due to the severity of the injury.
"Mostly the risk involved, and making sure that I'm healthy enough and I'm recovered enough, and I can still play at the level that I want to play at and that kind of stuff," Geoffrion said.
Doctors only released him recently to resume some light workouts, his dad said.
"I've been biking and lifting a little bit of weights, but I haven't really skated much or any of that," Blake said.
He talked with the Canadiens, who own his contract, back in March and alerted them that he is considering retiring due to his injury so they could plan accordingly, Danny Geoffrion said. One report indicated he had written them to say he was retiring and later backed off that, but Blake said he just had a "discussion."
"I've just kind of essentially been resting and recovering...(and) just kind of pondering and educating myself on what exactly the future holds," Blake said about his downtime during hockey season this year.
Even though he lives away from home now, Danny didn't get any indication that his son got antsy at all while going through the lengthy recovery period.
Blake with his brothers at 2010 Predators signing
Geoffrion on new Pred with TN ties
In 2010 Blake Geoffrion became the first Tennessee native to sign an NHL contract since the Nashville Predators hit town in 1998. He was the 56th overall pick in the 2006 entry draft.
On Saturday, the Preds drafted another player with Tennessee ties as its first-round pick, defender Seth Jones. Jones' father Popeye Jones was an NBA and Murray State basketball standout after growing up in Dresden, Tenn.
"I think they got really lucky and fortunate with Seth Jones. I think he's a heck of a player," Geoffrion said. "I think he's got a really bright future. They kind of lost a superstar in Ryan Suter, I think they need another one.
"Seth Jones, it's going to take a little while for him to develop but I think it's a heck of a steal. And even though they need some scoring and help up front, I think it was a great pickup for them."
"I think that he realized how severe this injury is that he has, and that it was all just about recuperating," the dad said. "I think he only started working out about a month ago. So it's just been baby steps, and that's where his whole focus is on -- is getting back to 100%.
"Will he ever be 100%, who knows? But he seems to be doing well, he's a normal kid and he seems to be doing fine. But it's day to day."
An acrylic plate was attached to Blake's skull during emergency brain surgery in Montreal. Doctors didn't rule out that he could return to hockey eventually, but noted the severity of traumatic brain injuries.
Danny Geoffrion is concerned about what could come back "to haunt you later in life. So that's just solely my opinion. As a dad, that's all I can do is tell Blake what my thoughts are, and ultimately it's his decision."
Traded to Montreal by Nashville in February 2012, Blake became the fourth-generation family member to wear the iconic Canadiens sweater including two Hall of Famers: grandfather Boom-Boom Geoffrion (who popularized the slapshot) and great-grandfather Howie Morenz.
Danny remembers when Blake first skated at age four, during a public session at the Centennial Sportsplex. The Geoffrions moved to Brentwood before the Nashville Predators even existed (Blake and brothers Sebastian, Brice and Nick even wore jersies for the expansion announcement).
"We just had him push a chair around to hold his balance, then you climb up to like a pylon and you just let go," Danny said. "He caught on to that pretty quick."
After being drafted by the Preds, Blake Geoffrion decided to finish his college career at the University of Wisconsin instead of reporting to the minor-league Milwaukee Admirals. He won the Hobey Baker Award and USA Today Player of the Year, made the NCAA finals, and earned a degree in consumer science with a focus in consumer affairs.
"Thank God he's got his college degree. If he wants to move on, he's 25 years old," Danny said. "... The sad thing is that he was probably looking at signing his first real big contract, a two- to three-year deal for a couple million bucks a year the way that he was playing and things that were unfolding. Hey, it is what it is. There's a reason for everything."
The family wanted to thank everyone for all the emails and phone calls supporting Blake in his recovery and his looming decision.
"I told Blake, 'It's probably not now, it's maybe a little bit later down the line, when you realize, hey, you know what, this thing is over.' ... He's been doing this his whole life," Danny said. "But Blake's a smart guy, he's very entrepreneurial, he's got his college degree, he's well-connected.
"So if the rest of his life is not the world of hockey, it'll be something else I'm sure he'll be successful at."
Carol Stuart is sports editor of Brentwood Home Page. Email firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow on Twitter @carolastuart.