Sunday, August 16, 2015

Reboot: An interview with Philadelphia Flyers' legend Bernie Parent



Spending a few hours with Philadelphia Flyers' legend Bernie Parent was well worth the trip to his office in New Jersey. The one-on-one conversation we had easily ranks among the most memorable interviews that I've had in my professional career, which dates back to 1990. Here's a full replay of an online feature that originally premiered in the fall of 2010...

Today, my philosophy has changed tremendously. Everything comes from what you think about. Whatever you are thinking, you are going to attract. When you are happy, good things will come to you, ” Bernard Marcel Parent.

A week prior to his participation in the Spectrum's demolition ceremonies, I had the chance to discuss hockey, business, and philosophy with Bernie Parent. In doing so, I learned about the man who was a steady rock on those Flyers 1970's Stanley Cup teams. The former goaltender's candor and warm demeanor revealed how he has transitioned from a Hall of Fame sports career to life after the game.

The last time I was in the Spectrum, I went down to the floor and stood where the holes for the net used to be. I was there for about 10 to15 minutes looking at the whole building. I relived the memories one last time. It was a beautiful thing,” Parent said.

Parent, who will be honored by the Flyers on December 8th at “Bernie Parent night”, has remained a member of the Flyers' family, serving as an ambassador for the team.

New book to be released

He also is the author of a forthcoming book, My Journey Through Fear and Risk, which was developed through his experiences, conversations, and motivational speeches that he has given since his playing career ended. The book will be available to corporations, schools, non-profits, and individuals. In it, he discusses life after hockey and how each person can develop a proper philosophy. It also contains a menu of 15 topics to select from which facilitates Parent's in-person presentations.

In addition to authoring a book, he has continued to represent a number of different corporations, and make public relations appearances around the country and in Canada.

Business requests can be made through his manager, Dean Smith, who can be contacted at:
856-988-0001 and through Parent's website.

When I talk with people, I tell them to find out what their purpose is. They need to find what they love to do and dedicate their lives to it. That's when you get involved in fear and risk. You may have to change everything in your life, but risk is a beautiful thing. That is when things happen. All successful people have taken risks,” Parent said.

Learning from the master

Parent's hockey career was partly inspired by Hall of Fame goaltender Jacques Plante, whose sister lived aside of his family home.

I was a shy kid, so when Plante would come to visit his sister I would always watch him. I can see in my mind exactly what his sister's house looked like, how he got out of his car, stood in front of the house smoking a cigar, and how he walked up the steps,” Parent fondly recalled.

My goal as a little leaguer was to get to the National Hockey League and then to win the Stanley Cup. When I was a kid I might have had 200 people telling me that I wasn't going to make it. They said I
wasn't big enough, or strong enough. But, when you have passion and are good enough, the obstacles fade away,” Parent said.

After playing in the junior leagues for the Niagara Falls Flyers, he was drafted by the Boston Bruins in the mid-1960's. Later he was selected in the 1967 NHL expansion draft by the Flyers and played in Philadelphia until he was traded to the Toronto Maple Leafs in 1971. Their starting goalie at the time was none other than Jacques Plante.

When I was traded to Toronto, I had some doubts at first. That was a low point in my career because I wasn't looking at the right side of the coin. I was thinking about the Flyers not wanting me, rather than the fact that the Leaf's did want me. Plus, the person who I admired as a child, Plante, was their goalie. I learned a great lesson from that whole experience,” Parent said.

I was there (in Toronto) for two years. I watched Plante play from the bench. He was incredible! You don't want to copy someone, but take what they have an add it to your own style. So, one day, I said to him, 'Jacques, can you teach me?', Parent said.

In 1972, Parent took a risk and jumped to a rival league called the World Hockey Association. While playing for the Philadelphia Blazers during that 1972-73 season, he faced an average of 55 shots per game, but used that as an opportunity to apply what he had learned from Plante. When the Blazers moved to Vancouver at season's end, he decided to go back to the NHL. Toronto then traded his rights to the Flyers.

Fred Shero

Newspapers heralded his return as a move that could help the team to win the Cup in 1973-74.

The first time I met Fred Shero he came up to me and said that he believed in team work, but didn't know anything about goaltending, so I was on my own. As soon as he said that, I knew I had the right coach,” Parent recalled.

I got a standing ovation when I stepped onto the ice at the Spectrum during our first pre-season game that year. But, ten minutes into the game, the Rangers had scored eight goals against me. I heard a lot of boos and Freddy (Shero) pulled me out. That was my reintroduction to the city. But, when you think you have hit your lowest moments, it doesn't mean it's over. You are just being sent in a different direction,” Parent said.

A few weeks after that Rangers game, Shero had Parent start in goal for the regular season opener against Toronto. He shut them out 2-0. As we know, the Broad Street Bullies went on to famously win their first Stanley Cup that season and have “walked together forever”, just as Shero's locker room chalkboard message had encouraged them to do.

Parent earned many awards after his return to Philadelphia, including winning both the Vezina (an award given annually to the league's best goalie) and the Conn Smythe (an award given annually to the league's best playoff performance) trophies in 1973-74 and 1974-75.

Post-hockey career

A five-time All-Star, he was the toast of the town in the 1970's, adding another Cup win in 1974-75.
But, after a career-ending eye injury against the Rangers, in 1979, his life changed dramatically.

After retirement, the problem is that you can't perform in front of large crowds anymore. That is the biggest adjustment that you have to make. Money is separate adjustment,” Parent said.

He joined a self-help program that he credits with turning his life around.

In your greatest despair, you can have your greatest victory. As long as I was the hockey player, I had a purpose. Once that stopped, that purpose was gone. I went in circles. I wasn't happy and I hung around people who had a similar outlook. I have learned that you become what you attract. So, I like to share what I went through because I want to help people to learn through my experiences,” Parent said.

During that time period he also was a goaltending coach and scout for the Flyers. Neil Little, drafted on Parent's recommendation, went on to win two Calder Cups for the Flyers AHL affiliate and today is the Flyers worldwide goalie scout.

In 1998, he was willing to let a doctor perform a new procedure on his damaged right eye. The procedure worked, restoring his vision to 20/20.

Pelle Lindbergh

Thomas Tynander and Bill Meltzer's book Behind the White Mask, contains a sharply detailed description of Lindbergh's life, career, and the father-son type relationship that he had with Parent. We discussed the book and his remembrances of Lindbergh.

Pelle was here on Earth for a brief moment that was cut a little bit short. We are spiritual people and
I believe that when someone passes away they move onto a new place in their eternal life,” Parent reflected.

During the 1981-82 season, Lindbergh was struggling. When he was sent to the Flyers minor league team in Maine, Parent suggested that he go with him. Through his guidance, Lindbergh returned to the Flyers during that season. He went on to win the Vezina trophy in 1984-85, which Parent presented to him at the awards ceremony.

I opened the envelope and his name was listed as the winner. He came up on stage and gave me hug. It was a big moment,” Parent fondly recalled.

I was very grateful that I was a part of his life. A paradigm was passed from Plante, the master, to me and then I passed what I had learned on to Pelle. He had a lot of good qualities that could benefit us today,” Parent said of his former protege.

Recent pursuits

He has remained an avid hunter, fisherman, and golfer. He values family greatly, having two sons, a daughter, and six grandchildren.

It is a different phase that I'm going into now. I love children. When you watch a child, you are seeing happiness. Watch them for a half of an hour and you will learn a lot,” Parent said.

A few years ago one of Parent's sons gave him a popular DVD. He credits what he learned from it (along with it's related book) as helping him to gain a deeper understanding of life.

The Secret helped me to see that we attract good and the bad things in life by how we think. When you have a positive view of life, good things happen to you. The greatest power on Earth is the power to choose. Once you understand the process, you can create anything that you want,” Parent said.

Ed Snider

I believe that he is one of the best owners in professional sports and has built his own economy. He is wise enough to realize that he needs a team. He is involved with his company, but allows people to have confidence in themselves and lets his team perform. Back in 1967-68 (the team's first year) he was sitting at the kitchen table with his wife, trying to determine how they would meet payroll. Now, he is one of the most successful individuals in the Delaware Valley,” Parent said.

Flyers 2010-2011

I think this team has the whole package. They have a great coach (Peter Laviolette) who I really like. They have great forwards and great defenseman. They also have three good goalies, who understand the game. It's exciting because the Flyers have their deepest team in a long time. They aren't hoping to win, they know they can win. If they stay healthy, they have a good chance to win the whole thing,” Parent enthusiastically said.

Packs

I consider myself to be a wolf, because I like the freedom of choice. Choice is very, very important to me. A wolf works in packs. So, everyone doesn't have to be like me, because people all have different talents,” Parent said.

He has employed the same strategy in his current pursuits that he did when he studied Plante's goaltending techniques. He studied successful business people for five years, so that he could begin to build his own business pack.

Parent concluded by saying, “Material possessions, like us, will come and go. I am grateful for what I have been able to attract. Life is a wonderful journey.”

Postscript

Growing up in the 1970's, I was naturally a Flyers fan and spent many great days playing street hockey with cousins and elementary school friends. My uncle created cool foam goalie pads that my cousin wore during our games in his garage. Every Sunday, while my Mom was making dinner, I would put my Bernie-style mask on and fend off shots from my Dad in our own basement rink.

After completing the interview, I began my journey back through the roads that I had traveled on a few hours earlier. As I did so, I could see in my memories that we all wanted to be who Bernie was back then. I also knew that I had just spoken with someone who enjoys being who he is today.

(Thank you to Dan Morroni, who is a custom tailor in the Philadelphia region.)
(Photo courtesy of Sean O'Brien.)
(My interview was initially provided to philly2philly.com.)

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