THE APRIL 2015 BULLS EYE FEATURE: Bernie Parent
From 1973 to 1975, in what many consider the finest consecutive seasons ever by a goaltender, the Flyers won two Stanley Cups and Bernard Marcel Parent won the Vezina Trophy and Conn Smythe Trophy both seasons.
In that two-year run of dominance, Parent posted 30 shutouts in regular and post season play combined. A 1984 inductee into the Hockey Hall of Fame, Parent was rated number 63 on The Hockey News’ list of “The Top 100 NHL Players of All-Time” at the turn of the century.
And, of course, the iconic Parent—now sporting a white beard, but with his signature French Canadian accent intact—remains a Philadelphia fan favorite more than three decades after his retirement.
Coming up on his 70th birthday, Parent is best known for being “the clutch netminder” on the Philadelphia Flyers’ championship teams.
He grew up in Montreal in the early 1950s, but, remarkably, didn’t learn to skate until he was 11.
Describing his childhood, Parent says, “My mom and dad were outstanding. My mom’s name was Emilia and she was a homemaker; the best cook in the world. My dad’s name was Claude and he was the best hunter in the world. My dad worked at the cement factory and was in charge of the computer for the boiler.”
Surprisingly, Parent says “I never worked as a kid.” In fact, he adds, “in high school, I was voted the least likely to succeed.”
“I am the baby of the family! I had four sisters, Renault, Mary Claude, Therese, and Louise, and all of them were teachers. I also had two brothers, Yvan, a psychiatrist, and Jacques, a school Principal.”
Not surprisingly, Parent’s childhood ambition was “to play in the National Hockey League.”
Today, Parent who splits his time between Cherry Hill and Wildwood Crest, has a 43-year-old daughter, Kim, and a 45-year-old son, Bernie Jr.
When asked what his adult children think of him, Parent replies, “My children think that I am awesome.”
In his first “real job” he worked for Canada Cement for two weeks, which was short-lived, and then went on to play in the NHL.
By 1965 Parent had moved his way up to the Boston Ruins’ farm system and ultimately played a few games with the Bruins, but he was “stuck” behind Gerry Cheevers and Eddie Johnston.
In 1967, Parent was claimed by the Flyers in the draft and it was there that he started to establish his reputation as a top goalie. In 1971 Parent was traded to Toronto in a very controversial deal. The Flyers had another young goalie, Doug Favell, and thought that Parent would be better trade bait. In the end, the trade was good for Parent because it was in Toronto that he became a teammate of his hero, Jacques Plante.
Parent left the Leafs in 1972, when he became the first Leaf to defect from the NHL ranks to the World Hockey Association. He signed with the Miami Screaming Eagles for but he ended up with the Philadelphia Blazers in the WHA instead.
Parent quit the team during the 1973 playoffs in a pay dispute and the Leafs traded him back to the Flyers where he became a figure of such renown that a popular local bumper sticker read, “Only the Lord saves more than Bernie Parent.”
Now part of the Flyers’ Broad Street Bullies, Parent and his teammates won the Stanley Cup twice in a row, in 1974 and 1975. In both seasons, Parent won the Vezina Trophy as best goalie and the Conn Smythe Trophy as playoff MVP.
Sadly, Parent’s remarkable career was short-lived. On February 17, 1979, Parent suffered a career-ending eye injury in a game against the New York Rangers. An errant stick entered the right eye hole of his mask, causing permanent damage to his vision.
After hospitalization, including the complete loss of sight for two weeks, Parent recovered and eventually regained sight, although not at the level required to resume his playing career. He retired at age 34, an age considered to be “still in athletic prime” for goaltenders and it was only five years later that he was inducted into the NHL Hall Of Fame.
The injury, ironically, presented Parent with the opportunity to transfer his passion for hockey to the business world.
Although Parent’s career was restructured, his position as a dominant figure in the community did not change. As he began to address audiences with his inspirational yet practical message, he renewed his status of a proven champion who has faced life’s challenges to come out on top of the game. Using a blend of sincerity, credibility, and wit, Parents’s presentations show how hard work and determination can lead to grasping the winning edge not only in professional sports, but in the business arena.
Parent has spent the last 30 years consulting and endorsing local and national business with his energetic expertise and popularity, consistently achieving high ratings and standing ovations. He has lent his credibility to various functions including corporate meet-and-greets, awareness campaigns, autograph signings, product endorsements, association conferences, key client appearances, charity fundraisers, and honorary sponsorships.
“I am an ambassador for the Philadelphia Flyers, a motivational speaker, and a firm believer in good will to all mankind,” says the ever-impish Parent.
His high profile clients include the NHL, Penguin Publishing, Kraft Foods, Johnson & Johnson, PECO Energy, Hershey’s, Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, Temple University Health System, Commerce Bank, Diversified Software, Slack’s Hoagie Shack, Dr. Pistone Hair Restoration, and Diamond Furniture, and SNJBP.
Parent’s latest passion is working with corporations to improve Safety Awareness in the workplace. Bernie’s popular Safety Awareness presentations include a 30-minute speech followed by a question / answer session, and conclude with handshakes and autographs.
The best part of his job, he says, is “meeting people and having them leave me with a smile on their faces.” As for the worst part, he says, ”I never look at that. I’m a positive person.” By the way, Parent’s first choice for a new career: “I’d go into psychology.”
Looking back at his career as he stands on the cusp of being a septuagenarian, Parent says, “I am so grateful.”
Asked what he knows now that he wishes he’d known then, he replies “I learned how to love.”
The best advice he ever received was from Tony Robbins, who said, “Have a vision!”
“You have to have a vision and have the courage to follow through with it”, Parent says. And the worst advice was “to start working at the cement company.”
His best business decision was “to get involved with my business manager, Dean Smith” and the worst was “not having met Dean Smith my business manager earlier.”
For Parent, the toughest decision is “being able to recognize that something just really isn’t happening for you, and making the decision to move on. The toughest decision I’ve ever made was walking away from the Flyers as their goalie coach.”
His personal motto is “Never quit!” and he says that he measures success “one step at a time. In life, you never arrive. You’ll always be working toward the next goal, and that’s how it should be.”
When asked about his greatest fear, he says, “I don’t have a greatest fear. Fear is always associated with losing something. But you don’t lose anything, you just move on from one phase to the next.”
The company or organization Parent respects the most is Philadelphia Flyers
Dumbest thing he ever did was “dye my hair before a photo shoot for the Flyers at training camp. It looked like charcoal.”
He believes that his “secret talent” is “the ability to dream,” and his best experience as a volunteer has been “visiting people in the hospital and being able to put a smile on their faces.”
One game you will never beat him at is “target shooting (and hockey, only the Lord saves more! Come on!).”
“If you really want to make me angry, hurt someone.” And, he adds, “when people don’t like what I have to say, it’s their problem. Not mine.
One bad habit that he just can’t break is cigar smoking.
Asked about the accomplishment of which he is most proud, Parent says “There are a few. Of course there’s winning the Stanley Cup, but being able to believe in myself when no one else did was a huge accomplishment for me.”
He says that the best South Jersey athlete ever was “My good, old pal, Bob Clarke.”
Asked if he had a “do-over,” what it would be, Parent says, “I don’t need one. What happened is supposed to happen.”
If he could travel back in time, where would he go and why? “ would love to go back in time and play a round of golf with Jesus and Moses, because it would be a perfect game.”
Asked when he meets people, the first thing he notices about them, Parent replies, “If they’re happy or not.”
As for the event that created the most significant emotional reaction on his part in the past year, it was “visiting ALS patients in Hahnemann University Hospital.”
One question Parent hopes he is never asked is “Is that your boat that sunk?”
Pictured: Bernie Parent’s book cover, Journey Through Risk and Fear