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Flyers' Parent shines in brief return to the ice

by Adam Kimelman

PHILADELPHIA -- When the rosters for the Molson Canadian 2012 NHL Winter Classic were announced, Bernie Parent was scheduled to be a non-playing ambassador.

A fan outpouring, however, convinced the 66-year-old Hockey Hall of Fame goaltender to break out the old pads and strap on the gear one more time.

He played just 5:32, but it was a 332 seconds Parent likely never will forget.

Parent received arguably the loudest ovations of any of the players, and the chants of "Bernie! Bernie!" never really stopped from the minute he came out to start the game until he took one final spin on the ice after his five-minute stint ended.

Even when he came out to watch the game in the third period, he received one more ovation.

"The best way I can describe the feeling you get when people chant your name is like this," said Parent. "Money cannot buy … any amount of money cannot buy that."

Seeing Parent in his No. 1 jersey, old-school brown pads and iconic white mask again evoked images of his prime, when he backstopped the Flyers to back-to-back Stanley Cups in 1974-75. He hadn't played in a competitive game since suffering a career-ending eye injury in 1979, and had shoulder-replacement surgery earlier this year.

"You always have reservations when you have age," Bob Kelly, a teammate from the Cup days, told "He had a shoulder replacement not long ago. But he's been in good shape."

"It was a lot of pressure," said Parent. "I felt the pressure, and once you get on the ice you want to perform, you want to do well in front of your fans."

He certainly did that, stopping all six shots he faced. Minutes into the game he made a strong save, and moments later he stopped Ron Duguay on a breakaway.

And while Duguay may not have pulled out his A-plus moves -- "I wasn't going to pick the corner on him," Duguay said after the game -- Parent still did his job.

"He was moving pretty good the other day in practice, too," said Kelly. "There's a lot of respect for Bernie form the other team. No one wanted to embarrass each other out there. Duguay is quite a classy guy. That was nice and Bernie got the kick, made the save and everyone was happy."

It wasn't just the fans who enjoyed seeing Parent in action one last time.

"I've been fortunate to know Bernie for a long time," Neil Little, who played the final period in net for the Flyers, told "This meant a lot to him. To see him put on a good show, that was extra special. I was just happy. I was just like everyone else -- a fan."

"It was wonderful to see Bernie," said Eric Lindros. "I think that was fantastic. He's getting out there and I think he was out there for what, six, seven minutes? That's a great feeling. That's real special for me. Nice to see that."

And like the star he is, Parent knew not to stay in the spotlight for too long.

"That was his call," said Keith Primeau, serving as the team coach. "He made sure we knew before we started that he was coming out five minutes in."

Contact Adam Kimelman at Follow him on Twitter: @NHLAdamK

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