This weekend is the NCAA Frozen Four in Detroit. Leading up to this weekend's events, we're chatting with one player from each of the teams involved. Look for interviews through Thursday. Today, it's Wisconsin Badgers forward and Hobey Baker Award finalist Blake Geoffrion.
While it may be too early to project how successful Blake Geoffrion will be as an NHL player, his family tree gives us hope.
His father Dan played for both the Montreal Canadiens and the Winnipeg Jets. His grandpa, Bernie, also known as "Boom Boom" was inducted in the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1972 after scoring 393 goals in 883 games and winning six Stanley Cup's as a member of the Canadiens. Great-granddad Howie Morenz was a 1945 inductee in the Hall of Fame and won three Cup's as a member of the Habs.
So far, Blake is carving a name for himself as tri-captain of the Badgers. Named one of the three finalists for the Hobey Baker Memorial Award last week, Geoffrion led the WCHA in goals with 19, was named to the All-WCHA First Team, was a point off the WCHA scoring lead, and led the country in power play goals with 14.
If Geoffrion wins the Hobey, he'd be the first player in school history to win the award.
We had the opportunity to speak with Geoffrion the day after he was named a finalist about developing his game, the team's playoff mustaches and playing outdoors against Michigan. Enjoy.
Q. You come from a good hockey background with your dad, great-grandpa and your grandpa. What kind of stories did you hear about them growing up?
GEOFFRION: All kinds of things. I know my dad was funny; pulling pranks in the locker room and was a good leader as well. He's still like that today; a pretty goofy guy, a pretty funny man and a great father to me. I love him to death.
My grandfather was kind of the same way. I've heard a million stories and watched commercials of him when he did the Miller Lite one. He was a real funny guy. Whenever he walked into the room, everyone knew that he was in there. He could make anyone in the room love him to death just with his personality. He was a great family man and he taught me a lot about off the ice stuff, while my dad was more on the ice.
Did "Boom Boom" give you any slap shot tips when you were younger?
No, not really. He was pretty old when I was getting into hockey. One story I remember was I was in the backyard shooting pucks and he grabbed the stick from me and said, "Lemme take dat dere". He shot and missed the net and it went all the way down and put a hole through our fence. We actually kept that part of the fence when we replaced it.
With each year you've been at Wisconsin your stats have improved. Did you find something in your game each off-season to work on?
Yeah, definitely. I'm kind of a character and leadership guy and really detailed about things I do on the ice. I think that's what makes me successful out there. Everyone always talks about getting stronger, faster and smarter. Things you can control big time in the off-season are getting stronger, getting a little smarter about the game and working on little individual skills. I'm always shooting pucks and lifting weights and running. We have on-ice sessions all summer long. Just trying to get better in all parts of my game.
Whose idea was it to grow the playoff mustaches?
It was kind of everybody's. I kind of had it mind that that's what I wanted to tell the boys and went to the locker room one day and asked if they wanted to grow beards or mustaches. All the boys agreed it'd definitely be mustaches.
Which guy has the creepiest one?
Since you were drafted by the Nashville Predators, how often do they keep in contact with you?
Not that often, a couple times this year. It's more "how are things going?", school, "are you healthy?" That's pretty much the conversation. They don't really talk numbers or contract or anything like that. I'm just one of those guys that I'd rather talk at the end of the year when everything's over I can just focus on my season and my team.
Do you get to watch a lot of Predators' games during the year?
I've watched a couple. I had the NHL package last year and watched a lot more games. This year we decided to get the movie channels, so I don't see as many. [Laughs] I do watch the highlights, though.
Growing up within Nashville's youth hockey leagues, how much did the interest in hockey increase once the Predators got to town?
Huge. The Predators brought in a lot of the high school kids and little kids. Hockey is definitely growing there. When I was growing up we only had one ice sheet and now we have five or six, I think. The hockey in Nashville is definitely growing and in the south, too. It's great to see.
Going up against RIT in the first semifinal, what do you know about them? Have you seen them much this season?
We know that they play hard for each other each and every night. They're an older group. Most of them are Canadian guys that have a lot of passion for the game. Coach [Eaves] has been talking all weekend about how their secret weapon is how hard they play for each other and they have a great goaltender and a good coach. No team is that lucky to get to the Frozen Four like they have, so they're definitely a good team and we can't look past them.
Did you know that the last time the Badgers played in an outdoor game, they won the National Championship (2006)?
Yeah, we've heard things like that. That's great and everything, but we're focused right now on RIT and coming out and having a great start as a team and not looking past them.
Splitting the season series with St. Cloud and then losing to them in the WCHA Final Five ... what was the feeling of revenge like in beating them with a Frozen Four berth on the line?
Oh, it was definitely a great feeling. We had redemption in mind the whole tournament if we were to face St. Cloud. We kind of owed them one because we didn't play our best game in the Final Five against them. We knew we were a better team than that. They're a good team, but we definitely wanted redemption against those guys.
What was the experience like earlier this season playing at Camp Randall against Michigan?
It was unbelievable. Walking out in front of 55,000 fans and playing a rival like Michigan, a great team and university, it was spectacular. The way we won the game with two goals in the last couple minutes there was unbelievable and I still can't believe to this day that we pulled it off. It was an incredible experience.
When the crowd started the "Jump Around" dance, what was it like to watch that from ice level?
I think it was during the first timeout in the first period and that's always a tradition here. For them to do that was pretty surreal. It was crazy. Even Coach was on the bench looking around to see everyone jumping up and down. It was pretty neat.
The biggest advice I've given my brother this year, and I'm going to tell my brother Brice who goes in next, is that you're gonna hit adverse times in your career when you're on the ice or in school. You just have to keep battling through them, keep at it and persevere through. Get as much help as you can from your tutors off the ice and as much help as you can on the ice from your coaches because everyone's willing to listen and help you. Those are the things I'm gonna tell them and after that, they can pretty much figure out things themselves.
How do you think your style of play will translate to the NHL level?
I'm a "do a little bit of everything" ... scorer, faceoffs, penalty kill, power play, and 5-on-5, play against the other team's top line, so I don't know.
I'll be curious to see what my new role is in pro hockey and what they expect of me. Obviously my goal is to always get to the NHL and be there and play the highest level of hockey. When I get to that point in my career I'll just sit down with those guys and ask them what they see of me in the future and we'll go from there.
Off the ice, what do you do for fun?
We have this place called "The Union" here. It's a place where they have a bunch of chairs and tables set up where you play cards, have a pop and sit by the lake and just relax. They have live bands playing out there.
I love playing golf. All the boys always go play golf together and just hangout. We play tennis sometimes. I ride my bike every once in a while in the summer and stay in shape that way.
I saw you're on Twitter. How have you enjoyed the interaction with fans this season?
It's pretty cool. Someone said I should join it to reach out to fans and little kids that have questions. When I was really bored, I asked, "if you have any questions, then ask and I'll try to the best of my ability to answer and get back to everyone". I know if I was a younger player, if I could talk to an older guy or someone that's been through different experiences through hockey and I could ask some questions, it'd definitely be a real cool interaction. It's just a way to reach back to the community and just talk to people.
Do you get some chirping from fans of other teams?
I haven't really that much. The latest one, I chose my Stanley Cup winner as the Phoenix Coyotes and all the Nashville Predators fans were pretty peeved about that one since there's the possibility that the Predators could play them in the first round. I usually put up different questions and see what people think of things.
Regarding you Coyotes pick, did you recently jump on the bandwagon or have you been with them the entire season?
I just think they have a good goaltender in [Ilya] Bryzgalov. Good defensemen and a mixture of young, talented older guys. Their forwards are really deep up front. They don't have a real go-to guy, but they have [Wojtek] Wolski and Shane Doan(notes). They have a lot of depth. They just got Lee Stempniak(notes) and they have a lot of character guys and leadership from guys that have been in the league. That's kind of why I picked them. We talked about RIT being a Cinderella story; I think the Phoenix Coyotes could possibly do that.
[Laughs] No, no. I'm not going to be one of those guys. I wish all the teams in the Frozen Four the best of luck and I'm sure it'll be a great three games.
Coming up tomorrow, San Jose Sharks' prospect Tommy Wingels of Miami University.