Last week, legendary Boston University coach Jack Parker announced he will be retiring at the end of this season, his 40th as head coach of the program. In that time, he has amassed 894 wins, won three NCAA titles, and sent 66 players to the NHL. One of those players is Columbus Blue Jackets defenseman Adrian Aucoin, who played at BU for only one season, 1991-92, before turning pro, but says Parker had a big impact on him in that brief amount of time.
“He had quite a bit of influence on me,” said Aucoin. “I mean, I was only there for a year, and he truly was like a father to us. You know I still complain every day that he never bent any rules. I was hoping to get a little something when I went there, but he wouldn’t even pick us up to drive us to the rink; he’d drive by us and just wave. He was definitely by the book. But as far as hockey goes, he was unreal, and I especially really appreciated him off the ice. As I said, he was kind of like a one-year surrogate dad to me, and he really helped me in a lot of ways.”
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For Aucoin, a native of Ottawa, it was a rather circuitous route to U.S. college hockey. He had been rated highly in the OHL draft, and his hope was to play for the hometown Ottawa 67’s. But that team didn’t draft him until the later rounds. Not sure he wanted to leave home – or even if he was quite ready to play major junior hockey right away – he decided to play another year at the Canadian Tier II level, retaining his NCAA college eligibility in the process.
“One of my best childhood friends was going to B.U., and he was the one who recruited me really hard, because it was the last school I visited,” Aucoin explained. “Of course, they brought me there during the Beanpot (a wildly-popular, annual New England college hockey tournament featuring BU, Boston College, Harvard, and Northeastern) which was a way to seal the deal. You know what, I don’t think I ever thought I would have gotten to this point in my career, hockeywise, so I was planning to stay at B.U. for the four years and see where it took off from there.”
It couldn’t have worked out better for the 18-year NHL veteran, in part because of the early lessons he learned from Parker that still apply today.
“It was the same lessons on and off the ice, Aucoin explained. “It was accountability. The one thing about playing hockey at school is you have to manage things. It’s just not about one thing, and those lessons translated from on ice to off ice. Make sure you show up on time, make sure you always work hard. And the one kind of cool thing about college is we had so many extra players that even practices turned into games. Kids really had to prove themselves, so even practices were always really hard. And we worked out every day, so there was really no down time. You always had to be at your best. That was a change for a kid from Canada who had come down with wide eyes and not sure what to expect.”
Although widely considered one of the most exemplary hockey programs in the country for most of Parker’s tenure, BU was rocked by two separate sexual assault scandals last year, and the program came under intense scrutiny and criticism in the aftermath. Aucoin says the boys had fun when he played, but it was within the framework of an excellent culture.
“Well, the culture was definitely top-notch when I was there. They had just lost in the finals the year before. They had players like (Tony) Amonte, (Keith) Tkachuk, (Shawn) McEachern, (Scott) LaChance. They were filled with stars. We had a big freshman class coming in, and like any group of young athletes, we had our off-ice issues. We tried not to cross any lines, but we all liked to have a good time. It was nothing drastically illegal that would have gotten anybody thrown out, and clearly things have gotten a little more out of hand in recent years. When I was there, if something happened that Jack didn’t like, he nipped it in the bud quickly. He put the school ahead of everything.”