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You can learn from a good Parent

by Dan Rosen / NHL.com

Flyers goaltender Bernie Parent won the Stanley Cup, Conn Smythe Trophy, and Vezina Trophy both in 1974 and 1975.
Even here at the National Hockey League's New York City headquarters, it's rare when a legend walks through the glass doors.

Well, it happened Monday when Philadelphia Flyers icon Bernie Parent paid a visit.

NHL.com had a chance to sit down with Parent, who won the Stanley Cup, Conn Smythe Trophy, and Vezina Trophy both in 1974 and 1975, for an extended, exclusive interview. What follows are Parent's thoughts on a range of topics – including the state of his beloved Flyers, for whom he still works as an ambassador, today's goaltending and the butterfly style, memories from his own career and what keeps him busy these days.

Hope you enjoy. We certainly did.

NHL.com: What do you think of this year's Flyers?

Bernie Parent: You know what? What a turnaround from last year. Last year they ended up with 56 points, and this year with 95 points. It's incredible. (Paul) Holmgren did a heck of a job. He brought the right players in, and before the trade deadline he brought in (Vaclav) Prospal, who is fitting in so well with (Danny) Briere. That is what Briere was missing when (Simon) Gagne got hurt. Somehow when he brought in Prospal, bingo, the team just took off. The chemistry between him and Briere is awesome.

NHL.com: What about the goalie? How do you feel about Martin Biron?

BP: I like him. Hey, he's French, and what I like is he follows the plays well. He anticipates well, which is very important. Those are all natural qualities you can't teach.

NHL.com: But, he's different than you in that he has the butterfly style, right?

BP: He has a good style. Sometimes the only problem he has -- and it's really all the goalies by the way -- is they drop to their knees too quickly. It's a very productive, successful style, but there is a fine line that if you drop a little too early it means you commit yourself and you start swimming and that's when you get caught. Once in a while, he gets caught like this in dropping too early. It's what is happening with the goalie in Montreal (Carey Price) the last couple of games. I tell people, though, that it goes back to when Glenn Hall played for Chicago and he had the same style. Patrick Roy was very successful, one of the best to ever play the game, but you have to be very, very disciplined with this. If you drop at the right time, you'll be successful. If you drop too early, bingo, you're done.

NHL.com: So, is Martin Brodeur so successful because he is a hybrid?

BP: He has two systems, and that's why he doesn't drop too early and that's why he's very successful. At times he will commit himself and you'll see him kicking his legs in the air to make the save. The reason he does that is he committed himself a little bit too early. It's very difficult to discipline yourself in that way.

NHL.com: OK … back to your Flyers. Do you think they're built for the long haul now?

BP: Definitely. Definitely. They have good leadership, and that's what you need. If you remember last year they lost (Keith) Primeau, and the team went down the tank. It's like in business anywhere. If you have good leadership, you're going to succeed. If you don't have good leadership, it's not going to happen. That's what they were lacking last year. This year I think Briere is a good leader, (Mike) Richards has become a good leader. And on defense, Jason Smith has become a good leader. They have some good ingredients to make it happen.

NHL.com: Have you been watching a lot of playoff hockey?

BP: Yes. I go to every Flyers game. I haven't seen out West too much. The only team I really have been watching a bit on VERSUS is Detroit, and they look awesome. (Chris) Osgood has really been playing well. On the East Coast, Pittsburgh is good and they did a heck of a job against Ottawa, but the team that really impresses me and is a sleeper right now is the Rangers. I saw (Henrik) Lundqvist in the last game when they beat the Devils, and the aggressiveness I saw in that net is incredible. The whole team is playing well. They'll be tough to beat.

NHL.com: You are listed as an ambassador to the Flyers. Can you explain what that means?

BP: I represent the Flyers mostly with the suite holders during all the home games, and at times I will represent the team at different functions in the Delaware Valley. I enjoy it. And, on the business side it's good because I'm out of sight and out of mind, but to stay involved with the team is very important for business.

NHL.com: Have you ever had the urge to get into management?

BP: No, because it's 24-7, and where I'm at in my life right now is I feel I can be more productive in doing different things. I represent different corporations and do some public speaking on two different topics. One is on motivation and what it takes to win, which we did. And the other one is interesting and you don't hear it too often, it's on safety. When I ended my career, I got hit in the eye with a stick and it's a good story to share with people. The reason I like sharing it is because it doesn't matter what you're doing in life; you're accustomed to a certain standard of living with your family and if you lose your job because of an accident everything changes. It's very drastic. Why take a chance on not being well prepared and well protected? If you're well protected and it happens, it is what it is. Why have something happen if you're negligent and not wearing the proper equipment?

NHL.com: Well, that leads me into my question about goalie equipment. Are the goalies too protected now?

BP: No. You can never be too protected because everyone is shooting 100 miles per hour and they have to be well protected. But I think they could re-design the equipment because it's bulky. Protection is one thing, and too bulky is another thing. When it's too bulky, instead of making a save many times you're stopping the puck. There's a big difference between the two. When you make a save, you can redirect your rebounds. When you're blocking it, you can't control the puck. You just stop it, and there is a rebound in front of you.

NHL.com: There has been a lot of talk about crease crashing in these playoffs. What do you think about that?

BP: It's funny how it has taken a 180-degree turn. Remember two years ago if you had one inch of your skate in the crease they disallowed the goal? Now you can be behind the goalie and they will allow the goal. They have to find a middle point here. The other system, with a little piece of your blade in and the goal gets disallowed, that was too much. Now it's too much on the other side. They need to find a middle ground.

NHL.com: Well, your Flyers crash the net pretty well. Are they playing like the old Flyers' teams now?

BP: You know how they're playing like the old Flyers? It's because they have that don't-give-up attitude. They can be behind and they come back. They don't give up and they win a lot of games that way.

NHL.com: I was told you have a book deal in the works. Care to explain?

BP: We'll get into more details as it gets closer, but it will be mostly about the belief in what you're doing and a transition from professional hockey to the world of business. It's going to be good for a different class of people. You don't just have to be in sports to make changes in life, and to adapt and believe in where you want to go with your next step is very important. It should benefit a lot of people. It will be cool.

NHL.com: If you could take one moment from your career to cherish, what would it be?

"Everything has to be just right to win the championship. You can get in the Final and win a game or two, but to win four games everything has to go right." - Bernie Parent
BP: You know what, I would probably say my first game. I was 19 and playing for the Boston Bruins. We played in Chicago that night and I found out after the warmup that I was going to play the game. It was my first game ever in the National Hockey League in front of 20,000 people and against Bobby Hull. We tied them, 2-2, that game, and I was freaking awesome. You dream about this all your life and then wow, here we are. It was awesome.

NHL.com: In 1974 and 1975, you repeated as a Stanley Cup champion. A lot of players now comment on how hard it is to repeat. Is it really hard to repeat, or is one season just completely different from the next?

BP: I like the second part of what you said. It isn't hard to repeat. It's just completely different. People say teams will concentrate more on you because you won the year before, but looking back on it, I didn't even dwell on the challenge being different. It was just as tough as the first one.”

NHL.com: Your team beat Bobby Orr and the Boston Bruins (in the 1974 Stanley Cup Final). Is it because you concentrated on beating that one player (Orr)?

BP: Remember, in those days when Orr played, Orr was the general. Everything would originate from Orr. That's when he became the master of the game. Everybody would shoot the puck away from Orr, but (former Flyers coach) Fred Shero said, 'No, let's shoot the puck in his corner. Let's make him work, make him skate, and hit him when he had the puck and get in his face. Let's pick him up early and hit him and make him work.' At the end of the game he was tired. At the end of the series he was tired. That's how we won. That was awesome.

NHL.com: Who do you think is the best goalie to ever play the game?

BP: In my case it's Jacques Plante. I grew up in Montreal and he re-designed the game so well. He's the first one that came out behind the net to stop the puck. He came up with the mask. He was very creative and very astute. What changed my career was when I got traded from the Flyers to Toronto (in 1971). I was very disappointed when it happened, but little did I know I was going to spend two years with Plante in Toronto. I learned so much from him. How to practice was very, very important. I never looked at that in my first couple of years in the League. When I learned how to practice, bingo, I just took off. After the two years in Toronto learning all those nuances of practicing, then I was able to apply it in the World Hockey League because I faced an average of 55 shots a game (in 1972). When I came back the following year with the Flyers, I was ready as a goalie and the team was ready. That was a good combination.

NHL.com: So, I know it's a loaded question, but why haven't the Flyers won a Cup since 1975?

BP: There are so many ways to answer that question, but it's been 33 years since they won and when I look at this (his Stanley Cup ring), every year they don't win it makes me appreciate this even more. It shows that it's very, very difficult to win a championship. Everything has to be just right to win the championship. You can get in the Final and win a game or two, but to win four games everything has to go right. To be there at the right place at the right time, there is a lot to be grateful for.

Contact Dan Rosen at drosen@nhl.com



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