Jan. 5, 2011
MADISON, Wis. -- There’s an historical symmetry to Blake Geoffrion’s first full season on the professional level with the Milwaukee Admirals that is not unlike his starting point as a freshman in college hockey with the Wisconsin Badgers. Not that he likes the similarities.
“It seems everywhere I’ve gone in my career,’’ he said, “I’ve struggled the first year playing in a new place. Why that is? I don’t know. I guess I need time to adjust to my surroundings.’’
On Friday night, the 22-year-old Geoffrion will be back in familiar surroundings at the Kohl Center where he will be honored prior to the UW’s nonconference game against Canisius. “Once again, it shows that they treat their alumni with great respect,’’ he said.
When asked specifically about the “Geoffrion Night’’ festivities – which will include a Hobey Baker poster giveaway and a limited autograph session between 6 and 6:30 p.m. – he conceded, “It’s pretty cool to have the university do that for me. I didn’t think I was that important.’’
Fans will remember Geoffrion for being the first Badger to ever win the prestigious Hobey Baker Award, the hockey equivalent of the Heisman Trophy. They will also remember Geoffrion for being an All-American and an industrious captain on a UW team that played for the 2010 NCAA title in Detroit.
What they may not remember is how Geoffrion struggled as a freshman. During the 2006-07 season, he skated in 36 games for the Badgers and accounted for only six points (two goals). By comparison, he had 28 goals – four game-winners – and 22 assists during his senior year.
At the moment, Geoffrion is going through a similar transition period with the Milwaukee Admirals, an American Hockey League franchise that is an affiliate of the Nashville Predators. Through 25 games, Geoffrion has collected 13 points. He has three goals.
Make that four “goals.’’
Geoffrion plans on continuing to “enjoy the game and work hard’’ despite his slow start due in part to a concussion that sidelined him for 12 games. While skating across the middle against the Chicago Wolves, he took an elbow to the head from Spencer Machacek.
“That’s the way my year has gone so far,’’ he said with a sigh.
Geoffrion is no stranger to concussions, either.
“I know what they feel like,’’ he added.
Geoffrion had two concussions last season at Wisconsin. One came in the mid-October opener against Colorado College and the other came in late February against St. Cloud State which resulted in forward Aaron Marvin being suspended three games for the hit to Geoffrion’s head.
Given the scrutiny of concussions in the National Football League was there any concern on Geoffrion’s part with his personal hat trick – three concussions in 13 months? “Mine wasn’t nearly as bad as some of those they have in football,’’ he said of being “concussed’’ for a third time in November.
But he admitted that there was “no need to rush and come back until I was 100 percent’’ and until he felt comfortable going on the ice and “playing the proper way I need to play.’’ In early December – his first game back – Geoffrion had an assist and a goal in an overtime win over Peoria.
“It’s been kind of an up and down season,’’ he said. “A couple of games playing well – a couple of games playing terrible. But I’m still learning each and every day. That’s the most important thing. The coaching staff hasn’t given up on me and all the guys (teammates) here have been great.
“I wouldn’t say it’s been just one adjustment (to pro hockey). It’s really getting used to everything and the way of life; what works in the pro game and what doesn’t. There were a lot of things that I could do in college that do not work in the pros.’’
Adjusting to a pro schedule has been challenging, too. The Admirals, for instance, will soon embark on an ambitious stretch where they will be playing 10 games in 15 days. Geoffrion cited the “life-style transition’’ that all rookies must go through, especially in handling their diet and down time.
“I’ve always lived by the quote, ‘Adversity makes you stronger,’’’ he said. “I’ve definitely faced a lot of adversity this year and I’ve learned from it and I’m starting to get better and I hope that continues. It’s just hasn’t been one of those years where everything has gone my way.’’
Like it did last season with the Badgers. “Last year everything went well for me,’’ he acknowledged. “And it did seem like every shot would go in.’’
Has being the Hobey winner added to the expectations in Milwaukee? “Knowing that you did win that award,’’ he said, “you don’t want to embarrass yourself and you want to play up to the hype.’’
What about a timetable for getting to Nashville? “Every kid obviously wants to get their sooner than later,’’ said Geoffrion, a second-round pick of the Predators. “But they’ve done a great job of producing NHL guys who’ve started in Milwaukee and they’ll know when it’s the right time.’’
Geoffrion, for now, is just looking forward to returning for a game in Madison for only the second time since his final appearance on the Kohl Center ice last March when he scored two goals in a playoff victory over Alaska Anchorage. Friday will be a special night. “It’s a thrill to go back,’’ he said.