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Boston coaching legends share Lester Patrick honors

by John Kreiser
Jack Parker and Jerry York have been intertwined as friends and rivals for most of their lives, so the fact that they were both named as recipients of the 2010 Lester Patrick Trophy for service to hockey in the United States this week is perfectly appropriate.

The two college coaching titans -- Parker at Boston University, York at Boston College -- join another Boston legend, former Bruins star Cam Neely, and AHL President Dave Andrews as this year's winners. Appropriately, the ceremony honoring this year's winners will be held in Boston in late October.

For Parker, who's heading into his 38 th season behind the bench at his alma mater, winning the Patrick Trophy was even more special because he and York were honored together -- along with Neely, another Boston hockey icon.

"I was flabbergasted when Mr. Bettman called to tell me," he told of being informed by NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman that he was among this year's winners. "To be going in with Jerry is really nice, as it is with Cam Neely. To get that kind of recognition is something special for me and my family, especially given how important Lester Patrick was to hockey in the United States. To be associated with that name, and with the number of previous winners, is really something."

York agreed that being named a Patrick Trophy winner along with Parker was special.

"I think it's a great honor for both of us to share it," he told "We were just two city kids growing up on this area. I don't think either one of us ever imagined back when we started that we'd be coaching like this. We played each other in high school -- Catholic Memorial and BC High. Same thing in college -- BC and BC -- and in summer leagues.

"We were both asisstants at the same time. I remember being an assistant at Clarkson and seeing Jack when he came up with BU and talking with him -- we were chatting at a light skate and saying, 'Do you think you want to stay in this thing, Jack? Should we get into the business world?'  We really weren't sure -- we were in our mid-20s."

Parker and York have been battling each other in one way or another since 1962, when they first played against each other in high school -- Parker at Catholic Memorial, York at BC High School. Parker played his college hockey at BU, York at BC -- just a few miles up Commonwealth Avenue. Parker has coached only at his alma mater, winning three NCAA titles in 37 seasons behind the bench. York began his coaching career in 1972, a year before Parker, but made stops at Clarkson (seven years) and Bowling Green (15 years) before coming home to his alma mater in 1994.

Parker said there's always been a rivalry, but there's also immense respect between the two men.

"We played against each other in high school and college, and we've coached against each other," Parker said. "We've known each other a long time, we've been friends for a long time and we have a lot of mutual friends. We've very competitive against each other, but there's a lot of mutual respect -- and it's amazing that we have such a rivalry with BC, we recruit against them, we recruit the same kids, but I don't think I've ever had a cross word with Jerry York in my life."

Each has had his share of success against the other on the ice.

Parker and York both have won three national championships with their current team; York also won one at Bowling Green, making him one of only two men to win championships at multiple schools. BC sandwiched titles in 2008 and 2010 around one by the Terriers in 2009. York has 850 career victories, 16 more than Parker -- but Parker holds the NCAA record for the most victories at one school.

"I'm certainly not a BC fan. I don't root for BC, ever," Parker said when asked about his feelings at watching his team's biggest rival take home the NCAA title in April by beating Wisconsin. "But I think it was quite something that they won it again -- to keep the championship on (Commonwealth) Avenue and have it stay in Hockey East for three consecutive years."

York agreed that keeping the title within the conference helps everyone in Hockey East.

"It gives the conference bragging rights, and we've had them for three years in a row now," he said. "It helps everyone in the conference."

York holds a 7-5 edge in Hockey East titles since arriving 16 years ago -- but Parker won in 2006, the only time they've met in the championship game. The one area in which Parker has dominated has been the Beanpot, Boston's annual four-team battle for college hockey bragging rights. BU has a 12-4 lead in the 16 years since York rejoined the rivalry, and Parker's Terriers have beaten York's Eagles six times in nine tries in the title game -- though the Eagles won this year's final by beating BU 4-3.

The two are a few weeks away from getting ready to battle again. Though Parker had bypass surgery on July 23, he says he expects to be back by mid-October for his 38th season behind the bench. He and York will battle for the first time when the teams play a home-and-home series on Dec. 3-4.

Parker admits he never expected to be coaching anywhere near as long as he has.

"I remember when my former coach (Jack Kelley) called me and congratulated me on getting the job -- he'd been the coach for 10 years," Parker said. "I said, 'One thing I know Jack is that I won't be at this job as long as you. I was right -- it was much longer.

"I think it's more the kids than the game," he added when asked about the biggest changes during his career. "The kids have changed dramatically since I started coaching in the 1970. We've been fortunate enough to have assistants who've helped me change with them."

York's Eagles enter the season as the defending NCAA champions, and Parker says beating them will be very difficult.

"We have a lot of talent, but we're unbelievably young -- we have just one senior on the team, and 17 freshmen and sophomores," he said. BC "will be odds-on favorites to do it again this year. They've got almost the whole back."
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