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Flyers legend Parent takes trip down memory lane with Prices, Canadiens

Talks hockey with Montreal goalie, his dad before getting enshrined into Quebec Hall of Fame

by Dave Stubbs @Dave_Stubbs / Columnist

MONTREAL -- It had been more than 40 years since Jerry Price had spoken with Bernie Parent, and now the two men were sitting in the Montreal Canadiens alumni lounge at Bell Centre on Monday, turning back the clock.

Sitting between them, wearing a cowboy hat while drinking it all, was Price's son, Carey, who, with 321 career victories is the winningest goalie in Canadiens history.

Playing goal for Calgary and Portland of the West Coast Hockey League in the mid-1970s, Jerry Price practically worshipped Parent, watching from a distance while the latter helped lead the Philadelphia Flyers to Stanley Cup championships in 1974 and 1975, each year winning the Conn Smythe Trophy as the most valuable player in the postseason. 

Parent arrived in the NHL in 1965-66 with the Boston Bruins, who had signed him two years earlier for their junior team in Niagara Falls, Ontario. He would play 608 NHL games for Bruins, Flyers, Toronto Maple Leafs and the Flyers again, with a 1972-73 stop for Philadelphia of the WHA.

The Flyers would select Jerry Price in the eighth round of the 1978 NHL Amateur Draft (No. 126), inviting him to camp that fall. There, he would absorb the counsel of the great Jacques Plante, the Flyers goaltending coach whose pedigree included six Stanley Cup titles and seven Vezina Trophy wins.

Price remembers Plante taking him under his wing and he recalls that Parent, entering the last of a 13-year NHL career that would take him to the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1984, truly made him feel like one of the team, no matter that he was deep on the Flyers depth chart and would never play one NHL game.

"You were my hero," Price, still a little star-struck, told Parent during the second intermission of the Canadiens' 3-0 preseason loss to the Maple Leafs. "Everything I would do in the minors in Milwaukee and Pennsylvania, I tried to be like you.

"My nickname," the 61-year-old said to Parent with a laugh, "was Bernie."

Parent was back in his hometown of Montreal with his wife, Gini, for his induction Tuesday into the Quebec Sports Hall of Fame. The 74-year-old will be the eighth goalie so enshrined, following, chronologically, Georges Vezina, Plante, Bill Durnan, Patrick Roy, Ken Dryden, Martin Brodeur and George Hainsworth.

Parent grew up next to Plante's sister, too nervous to go outside, watching the Canadiens legend walk up the driveway smoking a big cigar.

"I think back to watching Jacques and the Canadiens games on Saturday nights with my father," Parent said. "To when I played midget in this city and we won the Montreal championship. To playing in Toronto with Plante (for 65 games in 1970-71 and 1971-72), who taught me how to be a pro and changed my career, then going back to the Flyers (in 1973-74) to win the Stanley Cup twice.

"So many people helped me along the way, from when I was a kid. I'm so grateful that I grew up in Montreal, at the right place at the right time."

Parent is slowly getting back up to speed following back surgery on April 8. He had two titanium rods and a half-dozen screws planted in him during a seven-hour operation to repair injuries suffered when his car was totaled by a truck a year ago Tuesday in Philadelphia, he and Gini returning home from a Flyers preseason game.

"They took the screws out of your head and put them in your back," Carey Price kidded him, warming to the conversation, his eyes wide and hands firmly at his sides as Parent passed one of his heavy Stanley Cup rings in front of him to his father.

"Give me five!" Parent said with a laugh to the younger Price, extending his hand. Price took it in both of his and replied, "I'll give you 10!"

The three men talked about the changes in the game -- "It's changed a lot even since I came into the League (in 2007-08)," Carey Price said -- as well as the responsibility of players to the game and its fans and the importance of attitude in both good and tough times.

"When you're having fun, it seems that everything goes better," Parent said. "In life, when you're mad or upset, the traffic light is probably red. When you feel great, it's green most of the time."

Without exception, Parent greeted everyone he saw on Monday. At Bell Centre's security entrance, he chatted with André Lemoyne, a Canadiens employee since the early 1960s who saw Parent play as a bantam and midget. Two Maple Leafs prospects warming up near their dressing room got a close look at his rings without having asked to see them.

Toronto coach Mike Babcock, who has a great interest in hockey history, welcomed Parent into the Maple Leafs coaches room for a visit, referee Wes McCauley poking his head in to say hello.

When sharply dressed Toronto GM Kyle Dubas appeared, Parent studied him for a moment and said, "Have you just arrived from Hollywood?" Delighted, Dubas replied, "Would you like to join us for the whole season?"

"Tell me," Parent then asked goaltending coach Steve Briere, "why is it that today's goalies are almost always on their knees no matter where the puck is?"

Briere explained the nuances of the fast, modern game while Babcock listened with a grin.

Back in the alumni lounge with his wife, having watched the first period in a fifth-floor suite arranged by Canadiens owner Geoff Molson and team alumni director Rejean Houle, Parent was told that the seat into which he had settled was the regular place of late Canadiens icon Jean Beliveau.

"A person like Jean, so classy, so gifted as a player," he said. "Jean knew how to socialize. He was so kind and warm. Nobody gets out of this life alive, but once in a very long while you get an individual like him and you say, 'My God, I wish he could have lived forever.' "

Parent said he wasn't in the home of the enemy during his first visit to this arena, no matter than his Flyers had waged some wild Montreal Forum battles with many of the Canadiens featured on these walls.

"All we did was play against each other on the ice," he said. "Off the ice, we're all members of the great NHL family. You can't touch or see the vibration in this room, but you feel it."

Near night's end, Jerry and Carey Price would pose with Parent for a photo in front of Montreal's Stanley Cup display outside the dressing room, celebrating the Canadiens' 24 championships. 

"You treated me like a teammate," Jerry Price said, again shaking the hand of his hero then and still now. "Thank you for that kindness. I'll never forget it."

Photos: Vitor Munhoz, Montreal Canadiens; Hockey Hall of Fame Images

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