For Hockey Hall of Famer and Philadelphia Flyers
legend Bernie Parent
, the alumni game he plays in Saturday will be a case of completing the circle of his hockey career.
Parent's first organized hockey game was played outside. And most likely, his last one will be outside, as well, when he skates out for the Molson Canadian 2012 NHL Winter Classic Alumni Game on Dec. 31.
Parent, who was the backbone for the Flyers' Stanley Cup championships in 1974 and 1975, has said he will play about 5-10 minutes in the game.
The 66-year-old Parent said it'll be his first time in pads in a few years.
The alumni game Bernie Parent
plays in Saturday will be a case of completing the circle of his hockey career. (Photo: Getty Images)
"About two, three years ago," Parent said of the last time he wore his gear, "but they were all 4-year-old kids shooting at me for the (Flyers' Wives) Carnival. But I made all the saves. That's what counts."
Parent will break out those old-school pads -- including his famed white mask with the three Flyers decals -- after first insisting he wasn't going to play.
"At first I said I didn't feel like it at the beginning," said Parent, "but I thought about it, and you look at the fans, you can't be selfish on something like this. They supported us for so many years, in my case 12 years, and I said why not go out and wave to the people, maybe play for 10 minutes. That's why I made the decision."
Parent said the last time he was on the ice in any kind of competitive game was the night he suffered a career-ending eye injury -- coincidentally, against the New York Rangers
-- in 1979.
"I'm in my prime," a laughing Parent said. "You may question that, but I'm not. I'm in my prime."
When Parent truly was in his prime, there were none better. Prior to Tim Thomas
last season, Parent was the only goalie to win the Vezina Trophy, Conn Smythe Trophy and Stanley Cup in the same season -- and he did it in consecutive seasons, 1974-75.
Parent's 1973-74 season might be the best single-season performance by any goaltender in NHL history. He set a League-record with 47 wins (since broken by Martin Brodeur
), and led the League with a 1.89 goals-against average and 12 shutouts. In Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Final against the Boston Bruins
, he made Rick MacLeish's first-period goal stand up in a 1-0 victory at the Spectrum that made the Flyers the first of the "Second 6" expansion teams to win a Cup.
2012 WINTER CLASSIC
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The following season, Parent again led the League in wins (44), GAA (2.03) and shutouts (12). And again in the Cup Final, he put up a shutout in the deciding game, blanking the Sabres 2-0 in Game 6 in Buffalo as the Flyers won their second straight championship.
That's a far cry from how Parent started his career.
Growing up in Montreal, Parent only played outside. However, he didn't start playing competitively until he was 12, and back then he gave no sign of being a potential Hall of Famer.
"When I was 12 I wanted to become a defenseman, and I put the equipment on," said Parent. "You had to go on the ice and depending on your time (in one lap around the rink), the coach would put you in position -- forward, defense, whatever. Most of the players did their spin around the ice in about 14 seconds; I did mine in 21 seconds. He looked at me and said 'Goaltender.'"
That didn't go so well, either.
"In the first game I had 21 goals-against," said Parent. "Then he (the coach) looked at me again and said get out of here."
Parent didn't quit, though, and when he earned another shot in net, he was far better.
"I practiced and he gave me one more chance and we won that game," said Parent. "And then I was on my way."
He'll come full circle on New Year's Eve, when he goes outside one more time.
"We played and practiced (outside) and it was 10-15 below, but as a young kid you don't care," said Parent. "I look forward to that game. Hopefully we get a cold day. It'll bring back some good memories."
Contact Adam Kimelman at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter: @NHLAdamK