More than perhaps any other active coach in men’s college hockey, when you think of one institution, in this case Boston University, a singular name immediately comes to mind: Jack Parker.
Parker has been the Terriers head coach for 40 incredible seasons and transformed a niche sport at a regional school into one of the top collegiate programs in the country year-in and year-out. Monday, Parker will announce his retirement on his 68th birthday. We all knew this day was coming soon but it will be weird next season and in the near future to see someone else behind BU’s bench barking orders.
Parker grew up in Somerville and went to Catholic Memorial before he played hockey at BU. He’s known for many things - his ugly sport coats, thick glasses and gruff personality - but Parker is anything but a fraud. Being a local guy, he understands the cynical media and has never tried to be anyone but himself. This may rub some people (namely fans of other teams and coaches) the wrong way. He’s not the best guy to deal with after a tough loss or during a bad stretch, but with a resume like his, you have to trust the process.
The Terriers have won three national titles under Parker (1978, 1995 and 2009), four ECAC titles (before BU was in Hockey East) then seven Hockey East crowns. His overall record is 894-471-115 heading into the Hockey East playoffs this week as BU (18-15-2 overall, 15-10-2 in Hockey East) hosts Merrimack (15-15-6 overall, 13-11-3 in Hockey East) on Friday (7:30 p.m.) at Agganis Arena in a best-of-three quarterfinal series. Parker has the most wins at one school in NCAA history, he’s second in wins all-time and has the fifth best win-percentage.
When you talk about Parker, you have to mention Boston College head coach Jerry York as well. They are friends but they have been intense rivals for just as long. York set the NCAA career wins record earlier this season, so in a sense he’ll always be ahead of Parker. Similar to Parker, York put his school on the map. They are arguably the two best college hockey coaches in history so we’ve been extremely lucky to have them stick around these parts for this long at their alma maters. The Beanpot still has so much meaning because of those guys and they have ensured that college hockey is very popular in New England.
The list of Olympic players and guys that have moved on to the NHL that played for Parker at BU is impressive: John Cullen, Keith Tkachuk, David Sacco, Chris Drury, Mike Eruzione, Rick Meagher and Shawn McEachern. Parker has always been able to recruit some of the best players in college hockey but it takes a certain skill to motivate and get the most out of all them together on a team. It would be only fitting to see the Terriers make a run in the Hockey East playoffs and qualify for the NCAA Tournament in a few weeks. It’s the least they can do for their legendary head coach that is leaving Commonwealth Avenue any day now.
Follow Metro Boston college hockey writer Richard Slate on Twitter: @RichSlate