Hockey Banter Special Report: Reflections on Jack Parker

Jared Wickerham

BU's legendary coach announced his retirement on Monday after 40 years at the helm of the Terriers. The BC Interruption Hockey Banter guys react.

Joseph Gravellese: As much as we've speculated about it through the years -- and it seems like we've speculated about it toward the end of every season other than 2009 -- it still came as a shock to see in print that Jack Parker has announced his retirement after 40 years behind the bench at BU.

My feelings:

I feel similar to how I felt as a Red Sox fan on the day George Steinbrenner died. He was never a guy I cared for too much, nor one that I rooted for -- but his presence as the Other in the rivalry made it more fun. Basically -- farewell, worthy adversary. Things will always be different from now on.

Love him or hate him, Jack Parker defined a generation of college hockey in Boston. BC's coaching changes and program investments were an attempt to catch up to what BU built.

BC succeeded, spectacularly, and now it's BU's move to try to catch BC. But Parker leaves quite the legacy, stretching across generations. It's pretty incredible that he's retiring. It is a major shift in the entire Boston sports landscape.

Grant Salzano: I have to admit I'm really not as 'fare-thee-well' towards Parker. Yes, the rivalry was more fun with him being there. Absolutely. And he was certainly a legend of the sport. Absolutely.

But this is several years too late. And I'm not talking about results, which, save for 2009, have been sub-standard for a team thought of as a national powerhouse.

I really have a problem with the legacy he left at BU in his later years. Whether it was by short-sightedness, a lack of caring, or what have you, he really has recruited some questionable characters. More so than the recruiting of the kids is the lack of development on a personal level.

It's a point of pride for us that Jerry York has a reputation for churning out exemplary young men. Even the Hayes situation was met with swift and firm discipline, and the way Hayes handled it spoke volumes about his maturity -- which I truly believe comes from the culture York has put in place here.

And that's the thing, really. We all know Parker isn't retiring because he lost 4 straight Beanpots. It's because he completely lost control of the culture of his program beyond a point that he can recover it.

That's how I feel about this. I feel that it's a shame things got to this point, because the man truly was -- and I emphasize that 'was' -- a legend.

tl;dr, yes, yes, I know.

JG: I think we all agree that the reports that have been floated out there that Parker "wanted to retire last year but put it off so that his last season wasn't tainted by the scandal" is probably a bunch of spin. You're certainly right. And it's notable that on the quick hits on the news, on sportscenter, etc., regarding Jack Parker, they all mentioned the sexual assault scandals as part of his legacy.

GS: So how will this affect BU in the future? We BC fans joke around about wanting him to stay, but that's all in jest, right? Have to figure at least in the short term BU is going to take a severe hit in recruiting. Jack Parker may have tarnished his reputation but that's still a powerful name in the world of college hockey.

JG: Well, that's the big question if you're a BC fan, yeah?

It's tough to say. So many names have been floated out there for who will be next for BU. that'll have a lot to do with it. Ultimately, Jack Parker's results have declined considerably in recent years.

One thing that could impact BC would be if the BC-BU rivalry was diminished at all in the absence of Parker. But as Jerry York said at a press conference today, the greatness of this rivalry predates York and Parker and it will be strong for years to come. That said, this will likely go down, historically, as the most memorable and beloved chapter...sort of like the Yankees-Dodgers-Giants Subway Series years.

GS: It'll be interesting to see how losing one game a year against BU due to conference realignment, in, coincidentally, the first season without Jack Parker, will affect things.

JG: Didn't think of that. Hm.

Funny you mention that now, actually, because it seems like the Hockey Gods may be unhappy with BC-BU being done for the year on December 1st. It looked like we were done when BU didn't make the Beanpot final. But...the bracket seems to be lining up for a BC-BU semifinal, in what could be Jack Parker's last ever game...

I'm trying to phrase this as an answerable question. That would be an incredible story, eh?

GS: It would be quite a story. It would be a crappy one if we lost that game.

...But it would be fitting if we won.

JG: Yeah, I agree with all of that. We had better nip any "one last magical run for BU" crap in the bud ASAP.

GS: BU is in dire straights right now, though. I, personally, would actually be surprised to see BU make it to the Garden. The are down more good players than we were at our worst a couple weeks ago.

JG: One last Parker-related point for conversation: Let's do a little fill in the blank.

As a BC fan, I'd be most excited if BU announces their new coach and _____. I'll be most worried if _____.

GS: As a BC fan, I'd be most excited if BU announces their new coach and it's someone internal. A whole lot needs to change about that team and the current coaching staff ain't the ones to do it.

I'll be most worried if they nab Coach Brown. Not very likely, but that's all that would scare me. No one realistic that they could get would really concern me all that much.

JG: I'd be most excited if the new coach doesn't emphasize early the need to focus their recruiting on character and on players who want to play 3+ years of college hockey. BU will have no trouble recruiting talented players unless they hire the second coming of Spaz. But they've had trouble finding the *right* players.

Along the same lines as you, I'll be most worried if it's one of our assistants. I don't see it happening.

My gut instinct is that they hire a BU guy with some sort of deep NHL experience or connections. Obviously Mike Sullivan has been bandied about for a long time.

To wrap this discussion up: give me one (or several, I don't care if it's tl;dr) memory or thought that sums up Jack Parker to you.

GS: Oh God... take your pick of times that he verbally and physically abused a ref. Just embarrassing.

There, short and sweet.

JG: I'll say two things:

One, a positive: his close relationship with Travis Roy through the years. Love or hate Parker, and I certainty am not a fan, that whole story demonstrates what we love about college hockey - the sense of community, the passion for our schools and connections with our history.

But more recently and more specifically:

After the most recent spate of BU dismissals and departures, Jack said to the press "it's not like we've lost anyone who we want to be here," or something along those lines.

That arrogant attitude was ultimately his downfall. And it's why he retires in the shadow of both scandal and of Jerry York's wins record.

GS: Good choices.

That about wraps up our Bonus Banter. Check back in tomorrow when I'll be giving an in-depth look at the NCAA Women's Hockey tournament that kicks off on Saturday, and we've got a look into the men's Hockey East tournament on tap Thursday in this week's regular installment of the Hockey Banter.

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