Ex-Flyer Parent savors legend status

October 23, 1992|By Knight-Ridder News Service

PHILADELPHIA -- All those years, Bernie Parent wore a mask the color of sunshine. Painted smile. Twinkling eyes. Arched eyebrows. His "Some fun, eh?" motto scrawled across a wrinkle-free forehead.

That was off the ice.

On the ice, he wore a generic white mask with the Flyers' logo at the temples, a mask to deflect pucks, a mask to hide the terror he kept deep inside him.

"Goaltending," Parent said Wednesday, "it's not a pleasant career."

They honored Parent at the Spectrum Wednesday night as a "sports legend." Honored him for his back-to-back Vezina trophies, for his 55 shutouts, for the pucks he stopped with the hockey mask, and yes, for the "Some fun, eh?" attitude he had the rest of the time.

"The hockey fades away," Parent said, groping to explain why he is still so adored 16 years after the second Stanley Cup parade.

"A new generation comes in. Little kids ask me for my autograph, I say to them, 'How do you know about me?' And they say, 'My dad told me about you.' And that is the best feeling of all.

"You have to look at the whole picture. The Flyers, the organization, the Stanley Cups we won, the way the crowds went crazy," he said.

"In addition to winning, the guys were popular. Bobby Clarke, Bob Kelly, Bill Barber, Rick MacLeish, they all had charisma.

"And, because of the way we won. People loved us because Philadelphia people are contact-oriented. And we had a good-hitting team."

They had a good-hitting team and a captain named Clarke who gripped his stick so hard he'd leave a trail of sawdust across the ice.

And, in goal, Parent, who once explained a particularly nasty purple bruise on his chest, by saying, "My wife bit me in a fit of passion."

Wednesday night, Clarke recalled the moment in the sixth game of the championship against Boston, the Flyers clutching a 1-0 lead.

"We had a high-strung right winger out there named Simon Nolet," Clarke recalled. "Ten minutes left, 1-0 game.

"Bernie calls time out, calls Nolet over, starts talking to him. Nolet waves him away. He gets back to the bench, we ask Simon what Bernie wanted.

"Nolet said, 'That crazy bugger . . . he's got some new golf clubs and he said he wanted to play when this was over.' "

Jesting, is that how he survived so long, all those years in a "not pleasant" career, long enough to become a legend?

"To play well," Parent said, "to do the job you're supposed to do, you have to exit the world. You have to be in your own little world.

"Maybe selfish is not the right word, but you have to be within yourself at all times. You can't expand yourself.

"Goaltending has its own pressures. If you're a quarterback and make a bad move, there are people to help you," he said.

"A pitcher makes a bad pitch, maybe someone catches it.

"A goalie makes a mistake, it's a score. It requires a lot of discipline. You have to program yourself. You have to have a good system," he said.

"What's a system? It's the understanding of what you're doing out there. And once a goaltender understands why he's making certain moves, it's easier to be consistent."

His hair is all gray now, pudgier, mellower and still self-effacingly witty.

He is a senior vice president with Rosanio, Bailets & Talamo Inc., a communications marketing agency.

Which means he plays a lot of golf with prospective clients, takes them fishing on his 42-foot Viking off Cape May, shakes a lot of hands and tries to lure new business.

"What I try to teach young goalies," he said, "is never be realistic in life. I know it's not realistic to say that.

"But reality has too many barriers. I don't care if we're going up against a billion-dollar agency, I compete, show them what we're capable of doing."

The adoration Parent generates is fascinating considering the Flyers traded him in 1971 to Toronto. He jumped leagues and wound up with the Philadelphia Blazers in 1972 and bailed out at playoff time in a contract hassle in '73 before he found his way back to the Flyers.

"I have two main memories," he said. "One bad, one good. I'll tell you the bad one first, because maybe that will help young kids.

"I'd come back to the Flyers from the World League. The papers were saying that Parent was back in town and would help them win a Cup.

"First exhibition game, I get on the ice, I receive a standing ovation, ta-da, ta-da. And 10 minutes later, the New York Rangers have scored eight goals against me.

"They pulled me out. People wondering, what the hell is happening? We came back and won the Cup that year.

"I share that story with people to prove that if you don't give up, if you believe in yourself, the sun will shine again.

"The second memory involves the two championships. That's what you live for, as a little kid.

"The second one was better. The first one, I was numb. The second, I was able to sit back and enjoy it."

There was something earthy and satisfying about that team, it is no surprise that the Philadelphia Sports Congress built its first "sports legend" fund-raiser around Parent.

Dinner guests were promised an evening of fun. What they got was a bonus, Parent sharing his thoughts about life outside the rink.

"The way you keep improving," Parent said, "is to continually change your goals.

a kid, my goal was to play in the National Hockey League. I reached my goal, after 10 years, and they called me a rookie.

goal had to change. I had to decide, what did I want to accomplish? I thought about team-oriented goals, about individual goals.

"The one thing I keep telling young kids is, you just don't graduate, not as a goalie, but in life.

You cannot stand still. You must go forward. Otherwise, you'll go backwards."

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