There are few American cities that love the NHL as passionately as Philadelphia, and Philadelphians continue to channel that passion toward the members of the two-time Stanley Cup champion “Broadstreet Bullies” of the 1970’s. The team re-aranged the furniture in the way the NHL was perceived, and their brawling style sometimes overshadowed the Hall-of-Fame talent that the team possessed, from players like Bobby Clarke and Reggie Leach. Perhaps the greatest talent was between the pipes in the form of goaltender Bernie Parent. The always cool Canadian was part of a golden age of goaltending in the NHL, which helped change the way the game was played forever.
Parent never left Philadelphia for long, and now tells his view of the Flyers and the NHL in Unmasked, out this month from Triumph books.
We caught up with Parent to talk about Philly, hockey and the NHL Lockout.
-The fans of Philadelphia always seem to get a bad rap…what is it like being a Flyers alum in the area?
I played here 12 years, and I played a few different places, and by far, Philadelphia has passion on the ice or on the field, and you become part of a family. The Fans of Philadelphia are passionate about their sports and very knowledgeable. Freddy said it best: “Win tonight and we will walk together forever.” Well, that was not just for the players but the City of Philadelphia. We have been walking together since that first Stanley Cup.
– Those teams really ushered in a new era for the NHL…one that fans today may seem too violent…how talented was that team as you now look back?
You can’t define one thing; you have to define all sports. I think the players are bigger, stronger, and capable of doing more things. Make no mistake. The talent is the same as it was 40, 50 years ago. The teams I played on had a ton of talent and character. But most of all, we had great leadership with Bobby Clarke.
– Who was the best offensive player you faced during your career?
I would say the best offensive player I’ve faced was Bobby Orr. Big, strong, fast, his career ended way too soon. He is the best of the best!
-You made a brief jump to the Philly Blazers of the WHA before returning quickly to the Flyers. Do you think with better management the WHA could have survived?
Well, I guess we’ll never know because, we just don’t know. I just think it was good for hockey. It was good for goaltending. WHA was a pioneer for what hockey is today.
– What sets Ed Snider apart from other owners?
Passion, winning championships, and caring about the people in the Delaware Valley. Ed Snider is a man with a vision who loves this city and his players.
-You were the first in a long line of outstanding goaltenders in Philly. Who followed you who impressed you the most and why?
Pelle Lindbergh and Ron Hextall, and we had many other great moments in goaltending. But since Hextall, we haven’t been able to get that long-term fit. Ron played the game hard and again, he was passionate about the game and his teammates.
– Did you ever have an interest in the front office like some of your former teammates?
Of course the Flyers have always been my love, but I wanted to explore what else was out there for me, as well. When I reflect back, I was a performer. My relationship with the Flyers as an ambassador is more embracing to me than a front office job. It accommodates my lifestyle better than front office, which tends to be very demanding. I like what I am doing now with public speaking, working with the Homeless of Philadelphia and writing a few books, my most recent being Unmasked. I love to engage the hockey fans and with social media and the internet it makes it real easy. So like my official facebook fan page, follow me on twitter @bernieparent, and check out my blog at www.bernieparent.net .
– What would you change about the game today?
A lot of good things have been changed, but number one, there’s a crease to protect the goalie, but I see so many goals scored after the initial save is made. They have five, six players poking at the puck inside of the crease. The crease belongs to the goalie. Respect it and stay out of it.
– The NHL is going back and forth about the Sochi Olympics. Do you ever miss not getting the chance to represent Canada in the Olympics as a professional?
Of course. I’ve never had the chance. The last time there was an opportunity, it was 1972, but I was playing for the World Hockey League then so I couldn’t participate. It is something I am missing from my career.
– The NHL is obviously going through another lockout. Any thoughts on what you think would break the stalemate?
Yea. Read my new book, Unmasked, and passion for the game will be restored. In all honesty though, I don’t know. I’m not involved in that negotiation process. I’m not informed, so I cannot comment on something I am not truly informed about. Although, I do miss the game.