Several minutes before the start of the Boston University-Northeastern hockey game Friday night at Agganis Arena, Jack Parker walked through the crowded concourse above the rink named for him.
It seemed that with every single step, someone stopped him to say hello, congratulate him, or just shake his hand.
The legendary Terriers coach, who stepped down last March after 40 years behind the bench, hadn’t yet had his No. 6 raised to the rafters. That would come during the first-period intermission, but it was obvious from the affection of the fan base that the man is revered.
And why not?
His accomplishments during his run include three NCAA championships (1978, 1995, and 2009), 11 conference titles, and 21 Beanpot crowns.
Parker won the Spencer Penrose Award given to the NCAA Division 1 coach of the year three times and retired with 897 victories, third all-time among Division 1 coaches and the most at the same institution. He holds the record for NCAA Tournament appearances with 24.
Defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk became the latest Terrier coached by Parker to represent his country at the Olympics, bringing that number to 24.
Parker became just the second hockey Terrier to have his number retired.
The first was Travis Roy, whose No. 24 was raised in the fall of 1999. Roy was in attendance Friday night, as were many of Parker’s former players and staffers.
Parker said it was ironic his number was retired because he was against numbers being retired, with the exception of Roy’s.
“We never retired any numbers at BU because I thought it was great for somebody else to wear [another great player’s] number,’’ said Parker, who wore No. 6 because of his affection for former Celtics great Bill Russell. “So it’s going against my rule to have it done.’’
Parker said his number wasn’t being retired because he was a great player at BU.
“I really think the reason I kept my job so long was because we had great players,’’ he said. “The only reason why we had so many great players is we had so many great assistant coaches here. Players make programs and I was blessed to have a lot of great players here. I know that’s the reason why I’m standing here. It’s really something special for me to have my number retired with Travis Roy.’’
Parker said Roy’s spinal cord injury, suffered during his first collegiate shift, was the worst thing to happen during his tenure
“The best thing that ever happened to me was the way the BU community and the hockey community reacted to the injury to Travis Roy,’’ said Parker. “It’s amazing how it worked out and how proud he has made us of him.’’
As far as retirement, Parker said it’s actually been easier than he thought.
“I turned the page pretty quickly,’’ he said. “I’m real close with [current coach] David Quinn obviously but I’m not around for him too much. I don’t want to be looking over his shoulder. We have a great relationship. I come to the games with my grandchildren. I’ve been away a lot. I did a few things for BU on road trips. I’ve also had a chance to take some winter vacations, which I’ve never had a chance to do before. I’ve gotten into skiing a little bit. I just started taking lessons. I’m really happy the program is in good hands with David. I think it will jump back from this year very quickly.’’
The night ended as festively as it started with BU (9-20-4) earning a 4-1 win over the No. 9 Huskies (18-11-4) in front of 5,577. Freshman Kevin Duane’s goal at 10:59 of the first period ended the Terriers’ shutout streak at 183 minutes, 19 seconds, the longest in program history. The victory was all the more impressive given that BU dressed just nine forwards and six defensemen because of four suspensions — Jake Moscatel, Mike Moran, Matt Lane and Nick Roberto.