Legendary Montreal Canadiens forward Bernie (Boom Boom) Geoffrion has died at the age of 75.

Word of his death came early Saturday, the exact date the Canadiens had set to raise Geoffrion's No. 5 to the rafters prior to their game against the New York Rangers at Bell Centre.

The Canadiens said the ceremony will go on as planned.

Earlier this week, Geoffrion assured Canadiens Alumni Association president Rejean Houle that his heath troubles wouldn't prevent him from attending the ceremony.

But on Thursday, Geoffrion's wife, Marlene, and daughter, Linda, had him admitted to a hospice in Atlanta, where the family lives.

One day later, son Danny Geoffrion described his father as entering "the last stage."

A tumour was discovered in Geoffrion's stomach during a checkup two weeks ago. Doctors operated, but found the disease had spread too much to be removed.

Geoffrion, who many view as the innovator of the slapshot, was the second player in NHL history – teammate Rocket Richard was the first – to score 50 goals in a season, in 1960-61. That same season he won the Hart Trophy as the NHL's most valuable player and the Art Ross Trophy as the league's leading scorer.

He also won the Art Ross Trophy in 1954-55.

Geoffrion was a three-time all-star in the Quebec Major Junior League with the Laval Nationale. He made an immediate splash in Montreal, winning the Calder Trophy as the rookie of the year in 1952, with 30 goals and adding 24 assists in his first season in the NHL.

He was a member of six Stanley Cup winners with the Canadiens, leading all players in the 1956-57 playoffs with 11 goals and 18 assists in just 10 games.

He retired in 1964. After coaching the Quebec Aces in the American Hockey League for two seasons, he came out of retirement in 1966 and played two seasons with the Rangers.

In a 16-year NHL career, Geoffrion compiled 393 goals, 429 assists, and 689 penalty minutes in 883 games. He played in the league's all-star game in all but five of those seasons.

Geoffrion was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1972.

He tried his hand at coaching, taking the helm of the expansion Atlanta Flames for two-and-a-half seasons in the early 1970s. He even got to coach the Canadiens in 1979-80, but lasted only 30 games.

He suffered from stomach ulcers, which were exacerbated by his coaching stints.

Geoffrion's wife, three children and some grandchildren will be on hand for the ceremony in Montreal on Saturday night.