In a move that came as no surprise to any college hockey fan not living under a rock this weekend, Parker, on his 68th birthday, announced his retirement after 40 years as head coach at Boston University.
“The question is why, and again, it’s time,” Parker told an assembled group that included numerous former coaches and players. “I’ve been coaching the team for 40 years, I’ve been a coach here for 44 years and I was a player here before that. So for 48 out of the last 49 years I’ve been reporting for duty for BU hockey, and that’s enough.”
A man that would certainly be enshrined on the Mount Rushmore of college hockey, Parker has racked up 894 career victories since taking over at BU in 1973 — second among active coaches behind crosstown rival Jerry York of Boston College — to go along with seven Hockey East titles and three national championships. He’ll hope to add a few more trophies to the case at Agganis Arena before calling it a career, however, as Parker will continue to lead his team in this weekend’s conference tournament and into the NCAA tourney, should the Terriers qualify.
Parker admitted that he originally planned to retire following last season, but after a difficult year for the team that included multiple suspensions and accusations of a “culture of sexual entitlement,” he decided to return for 20012-13. As for choosing to announce his intentions in the week between regular season and the tournament, Parker said the timing just felt right.
“I didn’t want to do it earlier on,” he said. “I didn’t want to go through a farewell tour of all the other rinks in the league. That’s not me and I didn’t need to have that happen. But at the same time, I didn’t want to wait until the end of the year and have myself and my team find out when all the games are over that, ‘Oh by the way, guys, that was the last time I’ll coach you.’
“I always talk about BU being a family. I have two daughters and about 226 sons, and the team I have now are my youngest sons. And I’m not going to have any more children.”
Though Parker is beloved by his BU family on Commonwealth Ave., his influence reaches far outside the city limits. During his tenure, the Terriers have produced dozens of NHL players, six Stanley Cup winners and four members of the 1980 “Miracle on Ice” squad that won the Olympic gold medal in Lake Placid, including Team USA captain Mike Eruzione and goalie Jim Craig.
“If you look at my record, it looks like it’s a real good record,” Parker said. “If you took me and put me at Yale and took Tim Taylor and put him here, he’d have a better record than me. There’s a lot of great coaches around. The only way you can stay a long time is continue to win, and the school has to want you to win and be behind you. And this university over a long period of time, and more so now than ever, has been behind the hockey program and the hockey coach.”
Parker remains under contract with the university until 2017-18 and will continue to be a part of the BU community, serving as a special adviser in charge of fundraising to university president Robert Brown. But his final games behind the bench at the rink that bears his name will come this weekend, when BU hosts Merrimack in the opening round of the Hockey East tournament.