Parker's Career Ends in Championship Loss
An Era at BU is Over after 40 Years
by Joe Meloni/Senior Writer
BOSTON Jack Parker walked around TD Garden on Saturday afternoon. Hours before the 2013 Hockey East championship game, Parker recalled some of his better evenings in the building. Beanpots and playoff games won, others lost by the slightest of margins.
Hours later, his Terriers, the 40th group he led, played yet another unforgettable game on the biggest stage for college hockey in New England. BU lost Saturday night, 1-0, to Massachusetts-Lowell. It was a difficult end to the season — and a career.
The loss ended Parker's 40-year reign as head coach of the scarlet and white club on Commonwealth Avenue.
"We wanted to extend the season for coach Parker as long as we possibly could," BU captain Wade Megan said. "We played as hard as we possibly could."
"This is my fifth year with coach. He's an unebelievable coach and person," BU senior defenseman Ryan Ruikka said. "We wanted to make the run as long as we could for him. We pushed hard in the end. In the end, we didn't get what we wanted. He had a great 40 years here. ... He's the face of BU hockey. I thank him for all he does for me and the organization."
Since he announced his retirement on March 11, Parker's committed to keeping preparation the same for his players. The Terriers swept Merrimack in the first round of the Hockey East tournament shortly after Parker's revelation. Friday night, BU defeated rival Boston College, 6-3, to advance to Saturday's title game.
The loss to UMass-Lowell, tough as it was for the Terriers to accept, is little more than a footnote on Parker's legacy. Since he took over in 1973, success has been the standard at Walter Brown Arena and, later, Agganis Arena.
Parker will retire with 897 career wins — it would've taken a Hockey East title and Frozen Four berth to reach 900. He won three national championships (1978, 1995 and 2009), seven Hockey East tournament championships, four ECAC tournament titles and 11 regular-season titles between the two leagues. The construction of Agganis Arena is a permanent reminder of Parker's contribution and impact on the BU community.
"When he told us it was going to be his last year, we wanted to win even more,"BU senior Sean Escobedo said. "We knew he was near 900 wins, and we wanted to get him there and possibly even a bit further.
"The last two years have been pretty tough, losing classmates and things like that. It's made us closer as a unit. This year, a couple guys left early. It's a tighter unit. Coach Parker is a big part of that," Escobedo continued. "He's making sure we had players only meetings to make sure we're all on the same page. Especially toward the end of the season, in January and February everyone was on different pages. He was a a big part of us getting it together. We were able to make a good run here toward the end. We just came up short tonight."
In the last two weeks, Parker's insisted that nothing felt different. He, his staff and his team practiced and prepared for games as they always have.
"The very first time I thought about it was tonight because this was my last time in the Garden," Parker said.
The inevitable race toward his final game elicited a few moments of reflection from the coach, especially with the outpouring of well wishes from former players, colleagues and others he's encountered along the way. For the most part, he's avoided conversations about the end. College hockey in March always means careers end, but it's typically players' departures that dominate conversations.
Saturday night, BU's current senior class saw its career end without a major trophy. Escobedo and Megan expressed regret about the loss that ended their coach's career. Parker was concerned with just the opposite; wanting the victory not to win a trophy himself or to extend his career, just to see a dedicated group of seniors, which led BU through the turmoil of the last two years, win a championship.
"I've won games. I've won tournaments. I wanted this for my seniors," Parker said. "It wasn't to be. I wasn't thinking of what would be the best scenario."
"He's the reason I came to BU," Escobedo said. "You can ask any of the guys in the locker room, and it's the same. Playing at BU means you get to play in a good conference and in front of great fans, but he's the reason we all end up coming here. I've learned so much from him. He's seen it all. I've grown a lot since I was a freshman. I was kind of a punk. I've matured in these last four years, as a hockey player and person. I owe everything I am right now to him."
Ultimately, a game of nearly flawless defensive play and goaltending broke midway through the third period when UML's Derek Arnold's wraparound effort worked its way past BU's Sean Maguire after the goaltender made the intial save, but the loose puck kicked off the bottom of his glove and into the goal.
After the game, Parker drew a laugh from Arnold as he and his players congratulated the River Hawks on their first Hockey East tournament title.
"He said that he wished he played for me," Parker relayed.
Even after the final game of his coaching career, Parker's wit revealed itself.
"I told him, I wished he did to," the coach chuckled.
Seven months from now, a new man will lead BU into its first game of the 2013-14 season. For the first time in 40 years, it won't be Jack Parker at the reins for BU. The names of possible replacements started circling even before Parker made the announcement official. No matter who it is, the job of replacing Parker at BU means living up to the expectations he established in the last four decades.
As he wandered TD Garden before the last game of his career, Parker looked up and saw the black and gold and green and white banners of the building's more permanent residents. At this point, he recalled a quote from NBA legend George "Iceman" Gervin.
"As George Gervin said, 'I never did get a chance to put on the Celtic green, but the parquet floor has been pretty good to the Iceman.'"
His final game at the arena wasn't his ideal end, but it's been a pretty good run these last 40 years for BU and its own iconic Ice Man.