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Expansion Draft

Bernie Parent: Golden Knights draftees must 'go out and make it happen'

Hall of Fame goaltender was selected by expansion Flyers in 1967

by Dave Stubbs @Dave_Stubbs / Columnist

LAS VEGAS -- Goaltender Bernie Parent, two seasons and 57 games into his NHL career with the Boston Bruins, was in his native Montreal 50 years ago this June 6, hitting a bucket of balls to prepare for golf season.

"A friend of mine came up to me and he said, 'Hey, you got drafted!' " Parent said with a laugh this week, remembering how his life was about to change forever. "I said, 'Really. By who?' And he said, 'Philadelphia.'

"My first thought was, 'Where's Philadelphia?' I had no clue."

Parent would have a clue very quickly, and within a few seasons he would not only be the starting goalie in the City of Brotherly Love, he would become one of the most popular men to ever wear a Philadelphia Flyers jersey.

There is little chance any of the 30 players who will be selected by the Vegas Golden Knights on Wednesday will be mystified about their new destination.

Parent was the No. 2 pick in the NHL 1967 expansion draft, the League doubling in size from six teams to 12. Goaltender Terry Sawchuk, chosen by the Los Angeles Kings from the Toronto Maple Leafs, was selected before him; right behind Parent at No. 3 was goalie Glenn Hall, plucked by the St. Louis Blues from the Chicago Black Hawks (then two words).

Sawchuk and Hall were in their twilight years, each having a legendary career, while Parent was on the rise, soon to achieve great things with the Flyers. Of the 120 players drafted by the six new teams from the Original Six, four would become Hall of Famers -- those three goalies and forward Andy Bathgate, selected way down at No. 112 by the Pittsburgh Penguins from the Detroit Red Wings.

With his wife, Gini, Parent is in Las Vegas to take part in the 2017 NHL Awards and NHL Expansion Draft presented by T-Mobile (8 p.m. ET; NBCSN, SN), a gala to reward the League's best of 2016-17 and unveil the Golden Knights roster for their inaugural season in 2017-18.

Times have changed enormously since Parent moved from Boston to Philadelphia, veteran goalies Gerry Cheevers and Eddie Johnston on the Bruins roster when Parent was left unprotected. But the 1984 Hall of Fame inductee said the excitement of the Golden Knights' first players will feel much like what he experienced when the Flyers called his name at the 1967 expansion draft, held in a Montreal hotel ballroom just for League executives and a handful of reporters.

"I wasn't surprised to be left unprotected. I'm never surprised by what life has to offer," said Parent, 72, a motivational speaker whose glass forever is more than half full -- it is filled near the brim.

"These players are going to a new team, a new city," he said of those to be drafted by the Golden Knights. "It's a little scary, but the bottom line is, you have to be excited. Go in there and do what you're capable of, learn as you go forward, and everything will work out."

It's safe to say Las Vegas will embrace its new team with a little more vigor than Philadelphia did in 1967, though that city would soon warm to the Flyers and build a fan base whose passion is unsurpassed by any in hockey.

"That September, they brought all the drafted players to training camp and they put us on a float on Broad Street in downtown Philadelphia to introduce us to the city and my God, we had more people on the float than we had watching us," Parent said, laughing again. "People sure didn't know anything about the Flyers. But the magic about this is, seven years later, think about this, we won the Stanley Cup and we had 2 million people at our parade."

Parent remembers once asking then-Flyers owner Ed Snider, who courted and landed the Flyers franchise, three questions.

"I asked Ed what his first vision was, and he told me it was to have an NHL team," Parent said. "I asked him about his second vision, and he said it was to win the Stanley Cup. And when I asked Ed, 'Did you know how you were going to get there?' he replied, 'I had no clue.'

"That was beautiful, a great statement. I believe it showed that everything in life doesn't have to be mapped out for things to work out perfectly."

Life, Parent said, is about taking chances and following the heart, something he explored in detail in his 2011 book, "Journey Through Risk and Fear." He had his heart broken when the Flyers traded him to the Toronto Maple Leafs on Feb. 1, 1971, one crestfallen Philadelphia fan hanging a banner at the Spectrum that read: "Without a Parent, We're Orphans."

But it was in Toronto -- "an awesome city that I love," he said -- that Parent studied under the great, generously helpful Jacques Plante, his goaltending stablemate. 

The fledgling World Hockey Association came calling in February 1972, Parent at the time locked in a contract battle with Maple Leafs owner Harold Ballard, and he bolted the NHL for the Miami Screaming Eagles, who quickly became the Philadelphia Blazers.

He quit the WHA in May 1973, and his NHL rights reverted to the Maple Leafs, who traded him back to the Flyers that month. And then came Parent's glorious prime, when he anchored consecutive Stanley Cup champions in 1974 and 1975, winning the Conn Smythe Trophy each time as the postseason's most valuable player.

"If I'd declined the WHA's offer and stayed in Toronto, I'd never have gone to Philly to be part of a team that won two Stanley Cup titles. But I took the risk," Parent said.

Parent will be at T-Mobile Arena on Wednesday when the Golden Knights fill their roster. He'll think back to his own move from Boston to Philadelphia a half-century ago. 

He knows what he'd tell the players whose lives are about to change as members of a team that's not yet played a game.

"Get excited, have a vision, work as a team, believe in your teammates," he said. "Communication among the players is so important, off the ice and on the ice, and slowly but surely you get there.

"It will be a great opportunity for every player who will be drafted. When you are, show up with a positive attitude and give your best. Let's face it: you're being drafted because you have something to offer. So go out and make it happen. 

"And this is very important: You have to socialize with the people. When you do that, and they love the person who you are -- you'll make mistakes, but they'll understand it's a new team with new players -- they'll back you up even when you have tough games.

"What's ahead of them is what's ahead of all of us in life," Parent said, his glass now overflowing. "You can have a vision in life and even if you don't know what's going to happen, if you go forward full of confidence and energy, beautiful things happen."

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