Parker Knows, Being No. 1 is Not Enough
by Adam Wodon/Managing Editor
Jack Parker has been around long enough to know. He's also been around long enough to get sick of hearing he's been around long enough. But that's another story. For this season, it suits him well.
The best team doesn't always win.
Ironically, that phrase was etched into college hockey lore thanks to Boston University, the last time it was at the Frozen Four, 1997. That year, Michigan — the defending champs — had a star-studded, senior-laden team. It was No. 1 wire to wire. But BU, two years removed from a national title and featuring junior Chris Drury, defeated Michigan in the semifinals, 3-2.
The next day, at the Hobey Baker Award ceremony, the winner, Michigan senior Brendan Morrison, told a cheering crowd of disappointed Wolverine faithful, "The best team doesn't always win."
Many took this as sour grapes, and to this day Morrison still gets mocked by some. But Morrison, as in-artfully as he made it sound, was and is correct.
The next season, Michigan, without all of those seniors, but with Marty Turco still in net, won the national championship with a bevy of freshmen.
This is how these things go, more often than not. And this is the position Boston University is in this season. And Jack Parker knows it.
"We have a lot of wins and losses, but it doesn't add up to anything in this tournament," Parker said. "It only matters if you can beat your next opponent."
Should we even mention that the team with the best record against BU this season is Vermont, its semifinal opponent Thursday (8:30 p.m. ET, ESPN2)? Vermont won twice, in BU's Agganis Arena.
"If BU beats Vermont it wouldn't be upset, and if Vermont beats BU it wouldn't be upset," Parker said. "And on the Miami-Bemidji side, they've already beaten teams, so they're not going to be in awe of anyone either."
This old adage about the best teams, is particularly true in this crazy tournament, where the other three No. 1 seeds lost their first-round games.
"When Michigan got beat, we hadn't even started the tournament, and Michigan was out," Parker said. "It was considered the biggest upset, until Bemidji played. If anything, it helped us get ready. We didn't get lulled into that.
"What's more bizarre, almost every game ended in the last 30 seconds. That to me is what really jumped out. The Vermont (winning OT) goal (in the East Region final) was crazy. ... It's unpredictable when you get two talented teams on a sheet of ice with a lot of emotion."
Even when BU last won its national title, Parker thought the '94 team was better. That team lost to Lake Superior State, 9-1. It fueled the '95 run.
"(Being a favorite) has to do with people's opinion, and track record somewhat," Parker said. "That's how people get their opinion. But it still has to go to what happens on the ice."
But does it make you a target?
"When you get to the tournament, these teams aren't trying to knock off the No. 1 team in the nation, they're trying to become the No. 1 team. It's a different ball of wax," Parker said. "I dont think Ohio State was saying we want to beat the No. 1 team — they wanted to be the No. 1 team. So I don't think that target has anything to do with who will be more emotional. The fact is, we're all trying to become the No. 1 team."
Perhaps this knowledge and experience will serve BU well? Well, Parker isn't really buying that either.
"I've seen it all, but my players haven't, so there's no advantage there," Parker said. "The fact that we've been there a lot of times, and I've been there, it has no effect. The fact that we're a brand name college hockey school, that too is out the window. Vermont has never been in awe of BU. Bemidji likes beating brand names. And Miami plays in a terrific conference. So we're not set apart from these other three schools because we used to be here more often."
BU was a mainstay in the Frozen Four those days in 1997. Then, it stopped — 12 years without making an appearance. This year, Minnesota, Michigan State, Boston College, Wisconsin and Colorado College didn't even make the NCAAs.
This is why Parker knows that teams must seize on the opportunities when they have them.
"We could have everybody back (next year) and not make it, and it's happened the other way more often," Parker said. "You're expected to win a national championship, you get knocked out, and the next year you get there. A good example is Miami. The way Miami lost to BC last year was devastating. They probably thought that was their year. Here they are now. Last year BC won the national championship. They were the fourth-place team in our league, they were 1-6-1 the last eight games before the playoffs. The year before, they expected that team to win the national championship.
"So it's only here and now that matter. It's the last game for the seniors. Who knows who we'll have next year. I do know we'll have good players, we'll be a good team. What I don't know is if we'll be back here. So while we're here, we want to put on a good show."