College Hockey Roundup: Jack Parker bids farewell to the game he loved so much

Image courtesy of nhl.si.com

Image courtesy of nhl.si.com

Monday was a sad day for college hockey as legendary Boston University men’s hockey coach Jack Parker, on his 68th birthday, announced his retirement at season’s end capping a 40-season reign that saw Parker become one the most revered sports icons not only in New England but in all of hockey.

College hockey fans, supporters of the Terriers, and BU’s rivals all know the name.

It’s unlikely that you’ll ever see another coach like Parker ever again. The man they called “Somerville Jack” was born and raised in Somerville, Massachusetts’ Magoun Square. The hard-nosed working-class Irish Catholic graduated from Catholic Memorial High School in West Roxbury, MA in 1964. From there Parker went on to play hockey for the Terriers from 1965 to 1968. During his time as a player at BU the Terriers went a combined 72-22-4. A spark plug at center, Parker played under legendary coach Jack Kelley and was named captain his senior year in 1968.  He was named the recipient of the Bennett McInnis Award for Spirit and had 14 goals and 11 assists his senior year.

Parker played on three Beanpot championship teams and two teams which played in the NCAA tournament, placing fourth in 1966 and second in 1967. Interestingly enough, Parker played against Boston College’s current coach Jerry York, while York was at BC and at while the two were in high school.

After graduating BU in 1968, Parker was named head hockey coach at Medford High School in Medford, MA. After only one year with the Mustangs, Parker returned to Commonwealth Avenue as an assistant coach under his former college coach  Kelley. Parker helped lead the Terriers to two consecutive national titles in in 1971 and 1972. After Kelley’s retirement Parker served as BU’s B-team coach under Leon Abbott. After Abbott was fired in December of 1973, for withholding information about the eligibility of two Canadian players who had played junior hockey in Canada, Parker was named head coach and has never looked back.

Parker’s 894 wins mark the most of any college hockey coach at the same institution. He ranks second in total wins among active coaches, and third overall, behind only his childhood friend Jerry York (933) of Boston College and retired Michigan State Coach Ron Mason (924). Parker has reached the 20-win mark in 26 seasons and has won three NCAA titles in 1978, 1995 and 2009, four consecutive Eastern College Athletic Conference crowns (1974-77), 21 Beanpot titles and seven Hockey East titles. He has coached BU to a record 24 NCAA tournament appearances, the most of any coach and the most of any coach at a single school.

Parker has received countless honors, including the Spencer Penrose Memorial Trophy as the NCAA Coach of the Year three times. The first was in 1975, when he guided his first team to a 26-5-1 mark, the best major college record in the nation. He also earned the award after guiding the 1977-78 team to a 30-2 record and the NCAA title. Most recently, Parker earned the honor for the third time after leading the Terriers to the NCAA title and a 35-6-4 record during the 2008-09 season. He has been named the New England Coach of the Year seven times (1978, 1984, 1986, 2000, 2005 and 2006) and Hockey East Coach of the Year five times (1986, 1992, 2000, 2005 and 2006).

Under his watch, Jack Parker saw 23 players go to the Olympics and 66 enter the NHL. The Olympic streak started when Dick Lamby played for the 1976 U.S. Team in Innsbruck, Austria. One of Parker’s proudest moments came in 1980 when former Terriers Mike Eruzione, Dave Silk, Jack O’Callahan and Jim Craig were on the U.S. Olympic Hockey Team that upset the Soviets in the “Miracle on Ice” and defeated the Finns to win Olympic gold. Other notable Olympians include Keith Tkachuk, Chris Drury, Scott Young, Ryan Whitney, and Rick DiPietro. Current NHLers Kevin Shattenkirk, Charlie Coyle, Brandon Yip, Matt Gilroy, Colin Wilson and Nick Bonino all played under Parker.

Parker’s accolades behind the bench speak for themselves but the way Parker handled the Travis Roy incident speaks volumes to the type of man he is.

If you remember, Roy was a freshman that went headfirst into the boards 11 seconds into his first shift at BU against North Dakota on October 20, 1995 and never walked again. Parker was the one who rallied his team and the college hockey community around Roy.  At his press conference on Monday Parker said, “I always tell people that the worst thing that ever happened to me as hockey coach at BU was Travis Roy’s injury, and the best thing that ever happened to me at BU was the way . . . Boston University and the hockey community responded to Travis Roy.”

Many people will say last year featured Parker at his worst, when two BU players — New York Islanders draft pick Corey Trivino and Detroit Red Wings prospect Max Nicastro — were arrested on sexual assault charges in cases that occurred roughly three months apart.

Both were subsequently kicked off the team and Boston University launched a full-fledged investigation into the incidents. The investigation found that the team had a team wide alcohol problem, a “celebrity culture”, and “sexual entitlement”. Parker was forced to give up his title of “executive athletic director.” These two incidents don’t take away anything Parker has accomplished on the ice as a player or behind the bench, but some think they do raise some doubt and make his legacy more complicated then originally thought. I disagree.

Clearly, Parker never encouraged what happened at BU and it’s sad for the victims and all involved, but one thing I’ll say is it did happen under his watch. A coach should know what his players are doing off the ice. Maybe he did maybe he didn’t I don’t know if we’ll ever know the full truth.  We can all agree that Jack Parker is BU hockey. There is no doubt about that. He’s a legend in the sport. Parker has at least two games left in the season, maybe more.

The Terriers have rebounded from a disastrous February. They have earned of one Hockey East’s four home-ice spots by winning four of their last five games. With how inconsistent Hockey East has been this year, who knows maybe Parker can add another trophy to the collection? BU opens the conference quarterfinals with a best-of three series against the Merrimack Warriors. The hockey community salutes you Jack on an illustrious and storied career.