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BU names Agganis Arena hockey rink after Jack Parker

This story was published in the BU Bridge on March 11, 2005.

Asked what it’s like to be a living legend, Jack Parker made it clear that he was uncomfortable with the term.

“Don’t apply it to me,” said the BU hockey coach and executive director of athletics at the press conference announcing that the Agganis Arena ice rink would be named after him.

Although Parker (SMG’68, Hon.’97) is one of just four college hockey coaches to win more than 700 games, including two NCAA titles, he pointed out that many other coaches have enjoyed decades of success. For a coach, he said, career longevity is attributable to the college building a great hockey program from the ground up. “It’s more the players and the school than it is the coach,” said Parker, who has been behind the BU bench for 32 years.

Always reluctant to accept praise, Parker is nonetheless “one of America’s coaching legends,” said BU President ad interim Aram Chobanian. With a record of 713-367-80, he has won more games at the same institution than any college hockey coach. Beyond his winning ways, said Chobanian, Parker deserves the honor of having the rink named after him because his efforts — including player recruitment and fundraising — helped build Agganis Arena.

“Coach Parker and his teams’ accomplishments, together with the magnificent leadership displayed by John Hancock,” said Chobanian, “have made Agganis Arena a reality not just for the University community, but also for the greater region to enjoy.”

In a ceremony prior to BU’s final home game of the season March 3, Chobanian announced the naming of the Jack Parker Rink and presented Parker with a plaque that reads “in recognition of the highest standards of excellence that you have personally achieved and have introduced to students, alumni, and fans.”

“You are truly one of the great college coaching figures in the world,” Chobanian told Parker. “But you are also so much more than that. You’re a teacher, a mentor, and a wonderful role model.”

There have been several venues named after college basketball coaches, including Mike Krzyzewski at Duke, Dean Smith at North Carolina, Eddie Sutton at Oklahoma State, and Jim Boeheim at Syracuse. But this is a rarity for Division I hockey coaches: Boston College named Kelley Rink in Conte Forum after former Eagles coach John “Snooks” Kelley 16 years after his retirement, and the University of Maine is naming an addition to Alfond Arena after coach Shawn Walsh, who died in 2001 of cancer at age 46.

Parker said he didn’t dream of such an honor when he first stepped onto the ice as a sparkplug center on a Terrier team that would win 3 Beanpot tournaments — he added another 18 as head coach. “I never imagined being here that long,” he said. “I remember when I got the job, my old coach, Jack Kelley, called and congratulated me, and in the course of the conversation, I said, ‘I know one thing — I won’t be on this job 10 years like you were.’ I’ve had opportunities to go elsewhere, but I decided this was

a good place for me — the major reason was the way the people of Boston University treated me.”

Parker has had his chances to coach in the NHL, declining offers from the Boston Bruins in 1991 and 1997. On the latter, well-publicized occasion, Parker pondered his decision over a spring weekend — while the Terriers and the Bruins held their collective breath — and then went with his “gut feeling” to stay at BU. “I’ve made a lot of great friends here,” he said, “so it’s been more of a personal ride than a professional ride, and one of the reasons I’ve been here so long is that the University has made the commitment to having a successful hockey program.”

“This is an honor that Jack richly deserves,” said Mike Lynch, director of athletics. “His efforts on and off the ice have brought a great deal of honor and respect to Boston University. We are very proud to be able to recognize him in this way. He’s had his chances to leave here, but he’s stayed because he feels comfortable and he’s dedicated to making this program become the best it can possibly be.”