Blake Geoffrion recovering in hospital after hard hit fractures his skull
Canadiens prospect stable in intensive care after successful surgery for depressed skull fracture
MONTREAL — It wasn’t unlikemany crushing bodychecks you see in a hockey game. But as Friday’s Bell Centrecontest between the Hamilton Bulldogs and Syracuse Crunch wore on, the newsabout Blake Geoffrion went from bad to worse.
The Canadiensprospect had successful surgery on his head Friday night and remains in an intensive care unit of a Montreal hospital after being thunderously but legally checked by Syracuse defencemanJean-Philippe Côté, himself a former Habs project.
On Saturday morning, the Canadiens issued an update on his condition: stable in intensive care after treatment for a depressed skull fracture. "He is out indefinitely, and the medical staff is expecting a complete recovery from his injury," the brief statement read.
Bulldogs head coach Sylvain Lefebvre said after his team’s 4-1loss that Geoffrion’s parents, inMontreal for the game, were with their son.
Geoffrion wascarrying the puck toward the Syracuse zone, along the far boards, when he waslined up and crushed by Côté. The Bulldogs forward fell heavily to the ice;Côté’s skate appeared to strike Geoffrion’s head, which also hit the ice, hishelmet still on.
The 24-year-oldmade it to his feet and skated off, directly to his team’s dressing room, as amelée ensued, Hamilton’s Michael Blunden battling Côté in a short fight.
Geoffrion lostsome blood in the incident, ice crews needing to scrape the ice, and he didn’treturn to the game.
It was after thegame, to the media, that Lefebvre detailed the situation as much as he could.
The gravity ofthe injury was learned after an excellent crowd of 18,582 had left the BellCentre, having witnessed the first hockey game in the arena in seven months andtwo days.
It was on April7 that the Canadiens had defeated the Toronto Maple Leafs 4-1 in the NHL clubs’82nd and final game of the 2011-12 season, Montreal finishing 15th and last inthe Eastern Conference in a campaign that gave the word dysfunctional a wholenew meaning.
At the finalsiren that night, the Canadiens sent six players down to the Bulldogs, theirsenior farm team: goalie Robert Mayer, defenceman Frédéric St-Denis andforwards Louis Leblanc, Geoffrion, Aaron Palushaj and Gabriel Dumont.
That brought usto Friday’s Bulldogs game at the Bell Centre, which since its last hockey gamehad staged 30 different musical acts, five boxing cards, pro wrestling, an NBAexhibition game, Disney on Ice and about a dozen miscellaneous shows.
Goalie Mayerreturned Friday with a 4-2-1 record this season, a 2.37 goals-against average and.921 save percentage. Geoffrion was his team’s leading scorer with four goalsand two assists in nine games; Palushaj had five points on three goals and twoassists.
Dumont andSt-Denis were in Friday’s lineup as well, though Leblanc remained out, sidelinedOct. 20 for four to six weeks with a high ankle sprain.
The doors to theBell Centre opened an hour before the 6:30 p.m. start, joyful fans streaming into make up what was a record crowd for the Bulldogs.
The farm teamhas a special corner in the hearts of hockey-starved Habs fans, the teamstocked with players that will someday — in some cases soon — be members of theparent, currently locked-out Canadiens.
No one knowsexactly when that will be, of course. The NHL lockout might be inching toward aresolution. Or, it could be in quicksand.
Gary Bettman washardly the picture of enthusiasm in New York as the Bell Centre’s doors wereopening, a sombre Don Fehr following him to a microphone a couple hours later.
If anyonebelieved the NHL commissioner and the NHLPA executive director were makingsolid progress in narrowing the gap that separated them, you should rememberthe River Kwai and the sturdy bridge that spanned it.
But no matterthe gloominess hanging over the NHL, Friday’s Bell Centre — notwithstandingGeoffrion’s injury — was positively radiant.
Most obvious wasthe brightness of the rink itself, thanks to a new $700,000 lighting systemthat made its game debut. The 16-year-old setup was deemed obsolete, so withits impressive replacement, expect even the dimmest play to look spectacularlybright in person or on high-definition television.
The Canadienswere acknowledged, sort of. A Movember-moustached, CH-jersey’d Youppi! was inthe house and a pregame scoreboard tribute to Bulldogs alumni featured CareyPrice, Max Pacioretty and David Desharnais to raucous cheers. The clips ofdeparted brothers Andrei and Sergei Kostitsyn? Not so popular.
For those whocame for the dukes, hulking Habs blue-line prospect Jarred Tinordi and Syracusedefenceman Radko Gudas dropped the mitts and had a free-swinging tilt deep intothe second period.
With theCanadiens still in a state of suspended animation, the Bulldogs’ visit was abit of a one-night salve for Montreal hockey fans.
No one expectedthe subplot that was the injury to Geoffrion, who was traded to the Canadiensfrom Nashville last February, choosing the No. 57 as a tribute to hisgrandfather and great-grandfather, Habs icons Bernie Geoffrion and HowieMorenz.
Everyone washolding their breath for the young man late Friday night. That’s not how thisgame, the first in Montreal in 216 days, was supposed to end.
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