Philippe Bozon

This is Philippe Bozon. He is a pretty rare NHL player - he was both born and raised in France. I think goalie Cristobal Huet is the only other who can make that claim. Three others - Paul MacLean, Pat Daley and Andre Peloffy - were born there but not raised in France.

Interest in hockey in France is pretty weak, but not for the Bozon family. Father Alain Bozon was a former captain of the French national team. So it should come as no surprise that young Philippe took to the ice naturally.

He also took to hockey naturally. Under the guidance of father Alain and former NHLer Paulin Bordeleau, who relocated to France to coach after his career was over, Bozon went on to become the best player in French history. He was so good that by the age of 16 he was competing with the French senior national team.

Bozon's impossible dream of playing in the National Hockey League became a lot more promising in 1984. He was able to come to North America to further develop his game, playing junior hockey with the QMJHL St. Jean Beavers. Offensively, he was very strong, scoring 111 goals and 234 points in 157 games over three seasons.

Despite the impressive totals, the petit Frenchman was not drafted by any NHL team. The St. Louis Blues did invite him to their training camp in 1985 and signed him after the pre-season.

Bozon had come a long way, but NHL glory was still far, far away. In 1987-88 he struggled with the Blues farm team in Peoria (IHL). He would return to France, presumably never to be heard from again.

He would play in France for the next five seasons with several club teams, but also with the French national team at every opportunity. Between 1988 and 1992 he participated in 4 world championships, elevating France to the A pool, a rare occurrence. He also participated in the 1988 and, most specially, the 1992 Olympics held in Albertville, France, with the hockey tournament held in Meribel, not far from his birthplace. Bozon scored 3 goals and 5 points in 7 games in those Olympics, unlikely powering the host French to the playoff round where they met their match with the Americans.

Bozon's performance convinced both the Blues and Bozon to give the NHL another try. He returned and became a NHL regular from 1993 through 1994, even spending some time centering the great Brett Hull. Bozon's point totals may have been far from spectacular (16 goals and 41 points in 144 career NHL games), but Bozon was satisfied he could play in the National Hockey League.

The NHL lockout of 1994-95 saw Bozon return home to France to seek a place to play. Aside from 1 game with the Blues, he would remain in Europe for the rest of his career, earning nice pay checks playing for club teams in Switzerland and Germany.

Of course Bozon continued to represent France at the international level, returning to the Olympics in 1998 and 2002, and participating in 7 more world championships.

The tiny Frenchman was inducted into the IIHF Hockey Hall of Fame in 2008.

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