PITTSGROVE, N.J. Hes ready to go.
This week Bernie Parent put on the pads for the first time since his 1979 retirement, took some shots from Orest Kindrachuk and Bill Barber in preparation for Fridays Legends Game at Citizens Bank Park, and was stunned when 31 years turned into just yesterday.
I was making the moves, that was freaking cool, I didnt think I was going to feel that way, Parent said. The magic came back.
Peter Laviolette, you reading this? For Jan. 2 we mean. Parent may be 66 years old but he has a new shoulder, a stent, and, thanks to cataract surgery, 20-15 vision in the eye that forced his retirement. So Flyer Nation casts its lonely eyes to Bernie! Bernie! Bernie!
Besides, all he did during probably the two best seasons by a goaltender in NHL history, was basically just stand there, let the puck hit him and cover it at his feet.
Magical, indeed, it was. No less of an authority than a champagne-soaked Bobby Clarke, when asked for the nighttime celebration plans for the Flyers first championship, said: Ill follow Bernie, just walk across the water with Bernie.
So if Parent believes the magic is back, then we all should be believers. After all, no one ever had a teams back like Bernie had those Flyers. Fearlessly, the Broad Street Bullies took penalties and killed them to consecutive Cups while Parent recorded 24 regular season and 12 playoff shutouts, finishing off the championships and back-to-back Conn Smythe Trophies with elegant 1-0 and 2-0 victories.
Goaltending, the last line of defense, was not a desperate sweaty act as performed by Bernard Marcel Parent. Economical, fluid, weight perfectly balanced on his right pivot foot at the instruction of his childhood idol Jacques Plante, Parent knew where the puck had the best chance to wind up and patiently waited for it there. Hocus-pocus, the threat vanished, as will Parents style completely from the game when Marty Brodeur, the last standup goalie and Bernies pick as the best goaltender of all time, retires.
Goalies cant play that way anymore, for crissakes you have five guys poking at the freaking puck with nobody allowed to knock them down, said Parent. I dont know why they have the crease anymore.
So the goalies have to play on the ice. They havent reinvented the wheel, in my day Roger Crozier, Glenn Hall, and Tony Esposito all played on their knees. There is no beauty to it, but the game moves on.
For better and worse, among the positives being the unbruised arms, chests and legs of todays butterflying generation. The pads Parent wore had about as much cushion as the Flyers gave him in two Game 6s for the Cup, in which he played with a serenity that calmed and inspired his teammates.
In the final minutes of 1974, with the dreams of any hockey lifetime hanging by one goal against Bobby Orr and Phil Esposito, Parent called over Simon Nolet.
From the bench I see Simon give him an annoyed wave and skate away, Clarke said. I asked him what did that crazy bleeper say? and Simon told me he was bragging about his new golf clubs.
Only the Lord saved more than Bernie, who, in turn, conserved his worst fears for private expression. There was little goofing around during practice, when Clarke remembers Parent throwing his stick at scorers who dared beat him. But under excruciating pressure, the most together person that Bobby Taylor, Parents Flyer backup, claims hes ever known was Parent, which left his teammates laughing.
Take the edge off a little bit, then get back to your concentration, said Parent. My lord, it worked.
Next stoppage in Game 6, he summoned Joe Watson and referee Art Skov to explain the, uh, potential social advantages of winning the Cup, which Parent then did with the biggest save in franchise history, provided he hadnt already made it on John Bucyks overtime breakaway just before Clarke won Game 2.
With the clock under three minutes in Game 6, Hodge wound up from the top of the circle and labeled the shot of the standup goalies worst nightmares six inches off the ice for just inside the far post. Tie game, thought Terry Crisp, but Parent coolly kicked the puck out without threat to his balance. Barber chased down the deep rebound and fed a rush by Clarke, who was taken down by Orr with 2:22 to go.
When Orr came out of the box, he mindlessly shot the puck the length of the ice in the dying seconds. In recent years Parent has told people he lost sight of the puck great conversation at corporate events and a tale with which Parent has turned Ed Snider pale at the thought of that shot being on goal. The video, however, clearly shows Parent carefully tracking the puck all the way past the net to the backboards.
Really? said Parent, almost sounding disappointed.
Must have been a nightmare. The real truth is he did lose one from the red line with 12 minutes to go in a regular season, sending the Flyers to a 1-0 loss and keeping them from the 1970 playoffs.
I thought Minnesotas Barry Gibbs was going to shoot it around the boards, took my eye off it, shrugged Parent. Every life has its rock bottom.
Turned out, that goal was just a false bottom to deeper rock bottoms, making him all the more appreciative of two charmed years and titles.
Freakin fine line, 1-0 in 1974 and the next year in Buffalo it was 1-0 until 2:47 to go, he said. We could have been on the losing end of both of them.
But they werent. So, cigar in one hand, world firmly gripped again in the other, Parent sits in his big brown easy chair at a hunting retreat owned by his good friend Jim Petrongelo Sr., seeing the essential difference between playing now and playing then as having a 65-foot boat instead of my 45-footer, thats about all.
He doesnt begrudge anything to anybody, least of all himself, not after having come to camp after Cup No. 2 with a stiff neck that required surgery, being yanked from the 1976 and 1977 playoffs, and having his 750,000 WHA windfall largely lost by agent Howard Casper. Parent then suffered a what-were-the-odds career-ending stick through the eye slit of his mask in February 1979.
But even at 80 percent, his estimate of post-surgery Bernie, he looked almost as sharp as ever in disposing of Buffalo in five games in 1978. So Parent not only figured he had a few years left but knew he needed them financially. Suddenly, he was lying in darkness at Wills Eye good eye covered too for two weeks, then coming out of the hospital in a determined attempt to drink away his devastation and marriage.
There was no confusing the Parent who was impregnable in goal with the one vulnerable to life. As Flyers goaltending coach, his prize pupil, Pelle Lindbergh, was killed five months after winning the Vezina Trophy.
But Alcoholics Anonymous taught Parent sobriety. Jack Tarditi at Commerce Bank instructed Bernie in how to work a room and business manager Dean Smith, with whom Parent has written a self-help book (www.bernieparent.net), organizes the appearance schedule so that he can sit in one of Petrongelos fields for up three-and-a-half hours a day, enjoying nature between the odd blasts at it with a shotgun.
If a big buck comes in, make no mistake Ill squeeze, said Parent. But Im not there just to shoot. You know, you get back there, the world doesnt exist. Beautiful place, love it.
From April to October he lives on the French Connection, his Wildwood-docked 45-footer with two staterooms. Much of his Novembers are spent at some hunting locale and Parent winters in a Mt. Laurel hotel suite when hes not at the Petrongelos watching Flyers road games. Bernie is in that chair a lot, laughs Jim Sr.
Parents three children Bernie Jr. works as a masseur, Kim is a mother of five, Chuck is in real estate are all close by in South Jersey, as is Carol, his ex, who successfully urged him to seek help with his alcoholism. Parent announced to her 19 years ago that he was going to his boat, and then didnt come back.
We talk five times a week, get along better now than when we were married, Parent said. I always will take care of my family.
In the same way that Plante, finishing his career with the Leafs, provided Parent a mental checklist that elevated his game, The Secret, the self-help book that has become his bible, gives him the life system he craves.
You get what you see in the mirror, Parent said.
So he sees it all, his broken-heartedness at his trade to Toronto (that brought the Flyers Rick MacLeish, Bruce Gamble and a No. 1 that turned into Pierre Plante), the jump from the Leafs to the WHA that ended in vilification when he walked out on the Philadelphia Blazers in mid-playoff series because of a pay breech, as calculated chances taken towards just rewards.
When they stop paying you, you have to stand for yourself, Parent said. But when you think about it, if I hadnt gone to Toronto, Plante wouldnt have saved my career.
And, if I had stayed there, I never would have come back to Philly. Toronto didnt want me because I had jumped. The whole path, its incredible, but it only happens if you want to take the risk and move forward.
Good, bad, and not a whole lot in between, it has been an eventful life soon to be further told in a book with The Daily News Stan Hochman for perhaps the most beloved athlete in Philadelphia history. Thats because Parent is remembered as the most clutch.
Bernie always talked about the pressure, but he seemed immune to it, said GM Keith Allen, who built a Cup team by both trading Parent away and getting him back (for Doug Favell and an exchange of first round picks) when the Flyers were ready to win.
The first Cup was so overwhelming, you are numb, dont know what is going on, Parent said. We couldnt skate all the way around the ice with the Cup because of the people, got into the dressing room and it was full too.
After the second Cup, in Buffalo, we got on the charter. At the beginning we were all cheering and then it got quiet, I think everybody reflecting on what had just happened.
I was drinking then, so I had a couple beers and sat in the back as always looking at The Cup for a half hour. All you could hear was the plane engines. It was a beautiful time.
And heres the bonus. Considering everything he soon would begin to go through, that might have been only the second most beautiful time of Bernie Parents life next to today.
Jay Greenberg covered the Flyers for 14 years for the Daily News and Evening Bulletin. His history of the Flyers, Full Spectrum, was published in 1996. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.