As the first player trained in France to play in the NHL, Philippe Bozon had a tough road ahead. And having the demanding Mike Keenan as his coach didn't make life any easier. He played 144 NHL games with the St. Louis Blues between 1992 and 1994 and scored 16 goals before falling out of favor with Keenan in 1995 and returning to Europe to play for la Chaux-de-Fonds in Switzerland.
Bozon's father, Alain, who had been captain of France's national team, taught his son to play hockey, and at the age of 16, Philippe became the youngest player ever to wear the French tricolor. Both Philippe and his father learned a lot from Paulin Bordeleau, a native of Noranda, Quebec, who had gone to France to play after spending three seasons in the NHL with the Vancouver Canucks. Philippe Bozon attended the training camp of the St. Jean Castors junior club in Quebec in the fall of the 1983-84 season, but didn't feel he was quite ready for major junior hockey in Canada and returned to France after three weeks. Jacques Tremblay, a Canadian coaching in France, had recommended him to Castors coach Yvan Gingras, who had traveled to France to see him play and invited him to camp.
Bozon was more than ready the following year, though, producing 32 goals and 82 points in 67 Quebec Major Junior Hockey League games. And in his second season with the Castors, he shot the lights out in the QMJHL with 59 goals and 111 points in only 65 games, earning himself a spot on the league's Second All-Star Team. The Blues invited him to their training camp the following year and signed him as a free agent after an exhibition game against Edmonton in the fall of 1985. He played some games with the Peoria Rivermen, a Blues farm club in the International Hockey League, but then returned to play in the French league until late in the 1991-92 season.
A native of Chamonix, France, site of the 1924 Olympics, the 5'11", 175-pound right wing has played in three Olympics -- 1988 in Canada, 1992 in France and 1998 in Japan. He missed the 1994 Games in Norway because he was playing with the Blues at the time, often on a line with superstar Brett Hull. Bozon produced three goals and five points in six games at his first Olympics in Calgary and played in the first Olympics game ever to have a shootout. France defeated Norway 8-6 in the battle for 11th place at the Father David Bauer Arena in Calgary.
Then, when the 1992 Olympics tournament was held in Meribel, France, just around the corner from his birthplace, he played a big role in getting his country through to the playoff round before losing to the United States. French fans cheered his every move.
With the coaching of American Herb Brooks, architect of the American Miracle On Ice at Lake Placid in 1980, Bozon scored a natural hat-trick as France scored four goals in the third period and defeated Italy 5-1 in the 11th-place game at the 1998 Olympics in Nagano, Japan. He finished the Olympic tournament with five goals and seven points in just four matches. Only four players had more points, and three of those four were NHL stars Teemu Selanne and Saku Koivu (Finland) and Pavel Bure (Russia).
In recent years he teamed with countryman Christian Pouget to form the backbone of the Mannheim Eagles in Germany. The Mannheim club won three consecutive German championships between 1997 and 1999. Despite playing abroad, Bozon has always answered the call to suit up for France in international competitions, playing in seven World Pool A and three World Pool B Championships.