Terriers Part Red Sea

The Terrier Nation party started at 10:06 p.m. on Saturday night, and it shows no sign of stopping anytime soon.

At Noon today, the Terrier band and cheerleaders led a procession from Kenmore Square down Commonwealth Avenue to thousands of waiting fans in Marsh Plaza. The BU players, coaches, and staff followed behind in two duck boats, waving to throngs of supporters en route.

When the parade reached Marsh Plaza, the red sea of fans parted to allow the guests of honor to walk from the street to a platform in front of Marsh Chapel, where Terrier broadcaster Bernie Corbett, master of ceremonies, sported a scarlet sports jacket. A giant cake iced with “2009 Champions” and topped with a chocolate puck and miniature hockey stacks stood on the center of a curiously long table. The crowd soon understood why such a table had been arranged.

Soon Corbett grabbed the microphone and said, “From ‘Burn the Boats’ to the duck boats in triumph, I’m pleased to introduce the national champion Boston University Terriers.” Wearing their white “third jerseys” as they had in Washington, D.C., for the championship game, the players were introduced by class, starting with the freshmen. When Saturday night heroes Nick Bonino and Colby Cohen were announced, deafening roars erupted from the crowd.

When the seniors were introduced, they strolled in like the magi bearing gifts. First, it was Steve Smolinsky with the Ice Breaker trophy. Next up was Brandon Yip with the Denver Cup. Jason Lawrence followed with the weightiest prize, the Beanpot. Then Chris Higgins came forth with the regular-season Hockey East Championship trophy, and co-captain John McCarthy added the Hockey East tournament trophy to the growing collection on that very long table.

Naturally, co-captain and Hobey Baker Award winner Matt Gilroy walked in last to the largest ovation of all, carrying the grand prize – the National Championship trophy.

That set the stage literally and figuratively for numerous tributes. “I’m glad to see you gave so many students the day off from school,” quipped Boston Mayor Tom Menino. “Let me just congratulate the BU hockey on the greatest comeback ever… Jack Parker just wants to keep everybody tense to the end. The guys turned it on; they never quit. So I just want to say congratulations to the team. As mayor of Boston, we declare today to be Boston University Terrier Day in Boston.”

BU president Robert Brown spoke next. “National championships are rare. This team reached this pinnacle because of a rare combination of talent – and they have loads of it – dedication that started in the summer and ended in the wee hours of Saturday, and belief – belief in each other, belief in their individual ability, and of the dream that they could accomplish together.”

Brown reserved his highest praise for Parker. “Your coaching and mentorship on and off the ice are legendary, and we are privileged to have you in our community,” Brown told the coach. “We love you… even when you decide to play without a goaltender longer than most.”

After Brown went on to extol the “greatest comeback and greatest team effort I’ve ever seen” and went on to predict that a decade from now, “at least 40,000 alumni will claim that they were there at the Verizon Center, and no one will admit that they changed the channel with four minutes left.” He praised the “young athletes who refused to yield to what others thought was inevitable.”

Terrier Athletic Director Mike Lynch spoke next and provided Parker with a surprise announcement, telling Parker that he had the privilege of informing him that he had just been named the winner of the Spencer Penrose Award for Coach of the Year.

Parker then took the podium and enjoyed another thunderous ovation before being quick to note that he was especially pleased to receive the Award given that the more recent trend has been to have the whole coaching staff go to Florida to be recognized for the accomplishment.

In his remarks, Parker noted that “this is the best time to be a coach at Boston University because of Bob Brown’s presidency.” He went on to reflect on the season. “People keep asking me, ‘Is this the best Boston University team of all-time?’ And I have to say that no other team won this many trophies and this many tournaments and had the heart-stopping trek through the Hockey East tournament and the NCAA tournament as this club did. They also won more games than any other team.

“I think it’s easy for me to say right now that this is the greatest team that I’ve ever coached at Boston University.”

Parker closed by acknowledging that the Terrier students were the biggest incentive to hold today’s celebration.

“I had a lot of former teammates down at the tournament,” Parker said. “To a man, they were talking about the student section. When we were down 3-1, they couldn’t believe how hard and how determined the student section was still cheering and the band was still playing. One of the reasons why we wanted to have this today was because a lot of students couldn’t get down to D.C. due to the lack of tickets. So to have all of you here today is a great tribute to our university. I can’t tell all you students how much I appreciate your support – especially in the last three minutes of the Miami game.”

Terrier co-captains McCarthy and Gilroy spoke a few words of thanks to the fan – Gilroy sounding very hoarse, admitting that he hadn’t slept much since Saturday night – before proceeding wish Eric Gryba a happy birthday before cutting the cake to close out the celebration.

Afterwards, a few team members reflected on the celebration. “It was awesome,” McCarthy said. “So many fans came out today to support us, which is great because they did it all year long. It all still feels unreal to me.”

Assistant Coach Mike Bavis agreed. “I said to [Associate Coach] David Quinn before the overtime, ‘I can’t believe we’re standing here right now. ‘ “ Bavis said. “It was kind of a time warp; you couldn’t rationalize what happened… Looking back on it on videotape, there were some hell of a plays to make all three of those goals. It was like they were unconscious. They just played. It was unreal. They did some things we haven’t done all year on some of those plays. It was awesome. “

Today gave Bavis a chance to reflect on how much the amazing win has meant to how many people associated with the program. “There are so many great people involved in this at the university, so to be able to share it with them makes it that much more special,” Bavis said. “Sometimes you underestimate how emotional it can be. You see people who have been years with you doing this, and you realize how much it means to everybody.”

Speaking of which, the day gave Nick Bonino a chance to fulfill one dream while reliving another.

“It was cool,” Bonino said of riding in the duck boats. “You see the Red Sox do it and it’s something you always dream of doing, so it was great for BU to set it up.

Over two days after scoring what will go down as one of the most legendary goals in BU history, Bonino is still constantly reliving the experience in his mind. “I just watched the replay here, and it still gave me the chills. I got a great pass and just had to put it in. I’ll be thinking about that one for a long time.”

The sophomore admitted that the puck went in by a much narrower margin than he realized at the moment. “I didn’t think it was that close,” Bonino said. “I looked at the replay, and it went under the kid’s arm and right by the goalie’s glove, so I guess fate just wanted that puck to go in the net. It’s a great feeling.”

With that, Bonino slipped off the podium, swallowed by the red sea.


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