Jack Parker has won three national championships, led his teams to 24 NCAA Tournament appearances, 21 Beanpot trophies and 894 victories as the head coach of the Boston University men's hockey team. During the press conference to officially announce his retirement, the legendary bench boss reflected more on the relationships he has gained through hockey than his hockey accomplishments. Today, on his 68th birthday, it is an appropriate time to look back and celebrate the legacy of a man who has meant so much to the sport of college hockey.
Parker has long been an advocate of the college game, often pushing back at the notion that major juniors is a better route. He has been a strong voice in the sport, trying to eliminate the full shields which he believes detrimental to the game due to the sense of false security the full cage brings. He twice turned down offers to coach the Boston Bruins. He said, "I thought it would be cool that Jack Parker, the kid from Somerville, is the coach of the Bruins." He said he ultimately realized BU is the place he loved and where he belonged.
In the history of the sport, only Jerry York and Ron Mason have more coaching victories than Parker. Parker enters this weekend's Hockey East Quarterfinals needing just six wins to join the 900 club. He opined, "I've been lucky to be at a school that cared about winning. I've often said that if Tim Taylor was here and I was at Yale he'd have a lot more wins and I'd have a lot less wins." That might be true, but Parker is a huge reason for the tradition, pride and importance placed on Terrier hockey at the Kenmore end of Commonwealth Ave.
Parker has coached some of the sport's big names. Mike Eruzione, captain of the 1980 US Olympic team that beat the Soviet Union, might be the biggest of all. Then in the early 1990s, he had a line of Tony Amonte, Keith Tkachuk and Shawn McEachern, a trio who scored a combined 1,210 goals in the National Hockey League. The school's all-time leading scorer Chris Drury was part of Parker's 1995 National Championship team before going on to win a Stanley Cup with the Colorado Avalanche and eventually be a captain in the NHL. The list of BU hockey alums who Parker mentored on their way to the NHL is too long to list here.
Parker has also mentored many coaches who have gone on to coach at the college level and in the professional ranks. Parker mentioned Terry Meagher by name in the press conference. Meagher was one of the greats in the 80s and is now the coach of Division III powerhouse Bowdoin. Others include Joe Sacco, the current coach of the Colorado Avalanche; David Quinn, an NHL assistant and former assistant at BU; Mike Sullivan who coached the Bruins for a time and is now an NHL assistant. Also included in this group are John Hynes, a successful AHL assistant, and Brian Durocher who has led the BU Women's Hockey team to two consecutive Hockey East Championships.
Most of all, Parker spoke of all the great relationships he has made along the way. He thanked the many members of the BU Friends of Hockey, some of whom were in attendance. He described his players, past and present, as sons. He said what he has enjoyed the most was his relationships with all his players and their families. When asked who he might favor as the next coach, Parker simply stated, "Someone who is sincere," before joking "And hopefully knows what they're doing."
He said that retirement has not really hit him yet as he'll still go to practice tomorrow and prepare his team for their upcoming series against Merrimack in the Hockey East Tournament. He said, "It will probably hit me when the season is finally over and then again next October."
Athletic Director Mike Lynch stated that a search will begin in the upcoming weeks. He reiterated how important the job of BU hockey coach is. "I believe it's the marquee job in college hockey in large part due to Jack Parker. It will be an important search with President Brown and myself leading it." It would be easy to surmise that some of the coaches mentioned above would be leading candidates for the job as well as BU alum and associate head coach Mike Bavis.
Parker said that he will be involved in the decision, but denied he will pick his successor. Parker who will remain with the school in a fundraising capacity said he will stay out of the way of the new coach. "I won't go down between periods and ask why so-and-so isn't in the lineup. My only involvement will be bringing my grandchildren to the games." He said he knows a little about fundraising due to his involvement in raising funds for Agganis Arena. He joked, "I guess I'll just follow Mike Eruzione around."
Whenever the Terriers season comes to an end in the next month, it will be the end of an era. A legend of the game will be stepping away. Hopefully, all college hockey fans will realize what a true asset Jack Parker was to the sport.
Jeff Cox covers college hockey for SBNation. Follow him on twitter @JeffCoxSBNation.