BOSTON -- Say this much about Boston University's Jack Parker and Boston College's Jerry York: They certainly know how to follow a script. In a scenario penned perfectly for a Hollywood screenplay, the two distinguished coaches received the NHL's Lester Patrick Award for outstanding contributions to hockey in the United States at the TD Garden on Wednesday (along with Bruins president Cam Neely and American Hockey League president Dave Andrews), the same week that both had their squads ranked in the Top Five in the country.
The award, and the lofty rankings, could not have been a more fitting tribute. The two coaches share remarkably similar resumes. Both born in 1945 and bred in the Boston area, York and Parker both attended local high schools, played their college hockey in town -- York at BC, Parker at BU -- and now coach their alma maters. They are second and third, respectively, on the all-time collegiate wins list, with York at 853-540-92 in his 39th season and Parker just behind at 838-429-105 in his 38th season, all at BU. York's path was a bit more roundabout, going through Clarkson and Bowling Green (where he won a national championship in 1984) before returning to Boston College in 1992.
York claims four national championships in his body of work, while Parker has three (between them, they own the last three). Parker's Terriers have made 13 Frozen Four appearances, while York's teams have been there 10 times. If there's one conspicuous difference between the two, it's in Beanpot titles. As a coach, Parker has collected 21. York, handicapped by a later start, has four. But they both respect and enjoy the competition between the two programs. (Parker also likes to point out that he won both Beanpot tournaments that the two played opposite one another.)
York likes to say that he and Parker are "caretakers" of these two storied programs. (BC coaches John A. "Snooks" Kelley and Len Ceglarski have also garnered Lester Patrick Awards, in 1972 and 1990, respectively). But the two men are also custodians of one of the fiercest, and most formidable, rivalries in all of college sports.
Situated just a few miles apart on the same stretch of road -- Commonwealth Avenue -- Boston College and Boston University personify college hockey. York had a taste of it as a player at BC, but didn't realize its magnitude until after he returned following his stints at Clarkson and Bowling Green.
"Coming back to Hockey East, and Boston, this is a rivalry that is one notch above the previous two I've had in my coaching career," said York. "It's great for both of us. It puts both schools, both coaches, both teams at their very, very best, every night."
In typical fashion, both deflect any fanfare or recognition. Both maintain that great players make for great programs.
"Jack and I both understand the fact that if you have good players, you're going to be a good coach," said York. "And if you lose the recruiting wars on a continuing basis to anyone, you're not going to be able to win championships. We've both been very fortunate, and we've attracted a lot of outstanding players to our schools. That's something we never take for granted."
Parker echoes similar sentiments. "Too many people -- fans, sometimes players, the media all the time -- take college sports and pit one coach against the other. It's like Coach Cal [John Calipari] against Rick Pitno," said the BU boss. "That's not what it is. We don't play. We don't lace 'em up. We have nothing to do with it.
"We're just the guys who shove them out on the ice. We make decisions on which guys are going to play. The guys who play are the guys who are competing," said Parker. "This isn't about me. I've already won my games at BU. Jerry York has already won his games at BC, as a player. And we're not going to win any more."
Plus, Parker goes a step further, noting that each program has been blessed with a bevy of top-notch assistant coaches that have kept the team competitive.
"People don't understand the effect of the assistant coaches," said Parker. "The reason I'm still around, and probably the same goes for Jerry, is that our assistants have been good enough to keep us in contact with what's new in the game, and how to handle players differently. People don't look at the overall picture."
"David Quinn was a good coach here. Brian Duroucher was a good coach here. Ben Smith was a good coach here," he said. "Steve Cedarchuk [BC] was a good assistant coach. Greg Brown [BC] is a good assistant coach. They have great assistant coaches, and we have great assistant coaches here. Those younger guys keep us two older guys really in tune with what's going on. Nobody gives them credit."
But on Wednesday night, the credit went to Parker and York. And deservedly so.