NHL Hall of Famer Geoffrion dead of stomach cancer

Updated: March 11, 2006, 5:50 PM ET

MONTREAL - Hall of Fame right wing Bernie Geoffrion, who was credited with the invention of the slap shot, died Saturday morning in an Atlanta hospital after a brief battle with stomach cancer. He was 75.

Geoffrion's death comes on the day his No. 5 jersey was to be retired by the Montreal Canadiens. In order to honor Geoffrion's last wishes, the ceremony will take place as scheduled prior to Saturday night's game against the New York Rangers at the Bell Centre.

Geoffrion's wife, Marlene, his children Linda, Danny and Robert and his grandchildren will attend the ceremony. Marlene is the daughter of hockey legend Howie Morenz.

"On a day when his famous No. 5 takes its appropriate place above the ice at Bell Centre, the thoughts and prayers of the entire NHL family are with Mr. Geoffrion's wife Marlene, daughter Linda and sons Robert and Danny, along with his eight grandchildren," commissioner Gary Bettman said in a statement. "We cherish his memory and his contribution to our sport."

Nicknamed "Boom Boom" as a result of his innovation of the slapper, Geoffrion became the second player in NHL history to score 50 goals in a season when he accomplished the feat in 1960-61. He won the Hart and Art Ross Trophies that campaign and also captured the Calder Trophy in 1951-52 and the Art Ross three seasons later.

"Today is a very sad day across the hockey world and here in Atlanta," Thrashers coach Bob Hartley said. "'Boom Boom' was an incredible man who meant a great deal to me, and I'm fortunate to have called him a friend and mentor. I'm sincerely honored to be a part of the same coaching fraternity and to follow his lead as an NHL head coach in Atlanta. We lost a very special person today, and on behalf of the Thrashers organization, our deepest sympathy goes out to the entire Geoffrion family."

Inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1972, Geoffrion recorded 393 goals and 429 assists in 883 career games with the Canadiens and Rangers.

Geoffrion played for the Canadiens from 1950-64, compiling 371 goals and 388 assists in 766 games. In postseason play, Geoffrion had 56 tallies and 59 assists in 127 contests and was a member of six Stanley Cup-winning teams with Montreal.

"The National Hockey League is truly saddened by the loss of one of its true legends," Bettman said. "During a celebrated 16-year career in which he was a key member of six Stanley Cup champions in his first nine full seasons with the Montreal Canadiens, Bernie Geoffrion became known and loved as 'Boom Boom' for his offensive flair and his passionate play. We will remember him always for that, for his great love of the game and for his undying love of the Canadiens."

After a two-year retirement, Geoffrion played for the Rangers in 1966-67. He retired permanently at the end of the 1967-68 season.

In the summer of 1979, Geoffrion replaced the legendary Scotty Bowman as coach of the Canadiens. Unfortunately, health conditions forced Geoffrion to resign on December 11. He was also the first coach in the history of the Atlanta Flames from 1972-75 and led them to the playoffs in their second year of existence. In 208 games as coach, Geoffrion posted a career record of 77-92-39.

But Geoffrion will forever be remembered for his booming slap shot. During the Canadiens' domination in the 1950s, Geoffrion manned the right point on a power play unit so proficient that the NHL had no alternative but to end the rule that a two-minute penalty be sat out in its entirety even if the team on the power play scored.

This story is from ESPN.com's automated news wire. Wire index