Jack Parker’s legend precedes itself.
As men’s hockey coach at his alma mater of Boston University from 1973 to 2013, he guided the Terriers to three NCAA Division I national championships, won 11 conference titles, won 897 games and had a winning percentage of .643.
And yet, people may look at the 1979-80 team’s record of 11-17-0 and comment it must have been a bad year.
Parker, now 72, has a drop-the-mic response:
“We won the Olympics, didn’t we?”
Parker is one of five people being inducted into the United States Hockey Hall of Fame on Wednesday, Dec. 13, at the Westin Boston Harbor Waterfront, joining a group that includes Parker’s former assistant coach Ben Smith, former player Scott Young, NHL linesman Kevin Collins, and Ron Wilson, whom he coached against when Wilson played at Providence College.
That 1979-80 Boston University team was missing three key ingredients who were busy in Lake Placid, New York, leading Team USA to the most memorable American sports moment of the 20th Century, “The Miracle on Ice,” in defeating the daunting Soviet Union before going on to win the gold medal against Finland.
Jack O’Callahan, Dave Silk and goalie Jim Craig played huge roles in leading Team USA to the gold medal, along with former Terrier Mike Eruzione who captained BU in 1976-77 and Team USA in Lake Placid.
“What made it extra special,” Parker said, “is that they were the only four Eastern guys on the team; it was mostly Minnesota and Wisconsin guys. For the four BU guys to not only crack the lineup but be such an important part of that team was a real feather in Boston University’s cap.”
Parker was a feather in the cap as well, as a recruiter, as a motivator and as a man who earned the title “Coach” without it ever being his first career ambition.
He was a finance major at Boston University who planned to be a banker. He played high school hockey at Catholic Memorial School in West Roxbury, and played center for Jack Kelly at BU from 1965-1968, winning three Beanpot titles and leading the team to fourth-place (1966) and second-place (1967) finishes in the NCAA tournament.
After graduation, one of Parker’s teammates, Bill Riley, had accepted a teaching and assistant coaching job at Medford High School north of Boston, but over the summer he got an offer to be an athletic trainer and the club hockey coach at Lehigh University in Pennsylvania.
“Billy felt really bad leaving the head coach without an assistant,” Parker said. “He wanted a BU guy that knew how Jack Kelly was running things, and he called me up and asked if I’d like to do it, and I said sure. I didn’t have any intent of coaching. That was the 1968-69 season, and I fell in love with it. The next season I went back to grad school and Jack Kelly hired me as his assistant coach. The next year I was freshman coach, and then head coach and I stayed there for 40 years.”
That’s being modest.
Parker developed more than two generations of hockey players, continuing Kelly’s success of producing Olympians for the 1968 and 1972 Olympic Winter Games by extending every quadrennial through the 2014 Games with Kevin Shattenkirk.
“First of all, I used to get a lot of credit for being a really good motivator,” Parker said. “Motivation comes from within. Our job was to put them in an atmosphere that was enthusiastic enough, and solid system-wise, to help them get the most out of themselves, and 90 percent of the time we did that."
“We did a good job of recruiting character as well as talent,” he added. “You can’t teach work ethic. There are a lot of really skilled players who don’t become what they’re capable of because they don’t have the determination to be as good as they can be."
“If you look at our teams over the years when we had really successful teams, I can guarantee you the best player on the team was also the best guy, the best teammate, that did it the right way and ran it by example.”
Two specific events stand out in Parker’s mind as the best of his career.
One was coming from down 3-1 in the final three minutes of the 2009 NCAA championship game against Miami University to win 4-3 in overtime.
The other is one that defines Parker as a human being.
“The Travis Roy injury,” he says, referring to the 20-year-old playing on the first shift of his first game for Parker in 1995. Just 11 seconds into his shift, he missed a check and slid headfirst into the boards, fracturing two cervical vertebrae that left him as a quadriplegic.
“The best thing was the way BU and the community responded,” Parker said. “It is remarkable how the Boston University community and the ice hockey community nationwide, not just in Boston, came together, the amount of people who tried to make a better life for Travis when he came back to school.”
Roy started the Travis Roy Foundation to help spinal cord injury survivors and fund research for a cure.
For Parker, those truly are Hall of Fame moments.
Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc.