Arguably the decade’s most successful sports town recognized two of college hockey’s most successful coaches Wednesday night. Boston College’s Jerry York and Boston University’s Jack Parker were honored with the Special Achievement Award at this year’s Tradition, a fundraising who’s-who of Boston sports that benefits the New England Sports Museum.
“We were up at Clarkson in the early 70’s, Jack was an assistant at BU and I was an assistant at Clarkson,” reminisced York. “We were talking, and saying geez, [former BC coach] Len Ceglarski and [BU counterpart] Jack Kelley have been doing this thing for a long time. We never thought at that point, Jack, [that we’d be here].”
“I know when I got the job at BU, Jack Kelley — who was my former coach — called me up and said congratulations. And I said, ‘I’ll tell you one thing, I’ll never be in this job as long as you were.’ He was at BU for ten years,” concurred Parker to a laugh from the audience.
York and Parker, the only two active college hockey coaches with more than 800 wins, joined the Tradition’s eighth annual class of honorees that included former Boston Red Sox pitcher Curt Schilling and former New England Patriots player Troy Brown (Lifetime Achievement Awards), local Olympic medalist Nancy Kerrigan (Figure Skating Legacy Award), former Boston Celtic Sam Jones (Basketball Legacy Award) and former Boston Bruins legend Ken Hodge Sr. (Hockey Achievement Award).
“Being inducted with Jerry is quite a tribute for us, and to kinda elevate college hockey in this town, it’s nice,” reflected Parker, “but to be on the same stage with the other people who were here tonight — not just the other recipients, but the other presenters — Milt Shmidt, Bill Russell, Bill Belichick, is quite a thrill for me. I’m a fan. I’m a season ticket-holder for the Red Sox, but as a kid I was really a Celtics fan more than anything else. Bill Russell is, to this day, my favorite athlete of all time.”
So closely connected on a professional level, the local coaching legends also spoke of a personal relationship beyond the microphones and cameras.
“We’ll see each other occasionally,” said York. “He gets involved in all sorts of sailing, and I’m into golf, so we’ll occasionally have lunch together. We’re good friends, who just happen to be great rivals.”
Parker assessed the comparisons as equally inevitable and complimentary.
“I think it’s probably the only reason they [induct us] now, because we won back-to-back [national titles] and we’ve both had long careers, and very similar types of careers. It would’ve been hard to have one of us without the other. They probably wouldn’t have had one of us without the other,” he grinned.