BOSTON | Tom Poti just wants to say hello.
Back at Boston University’s Agganis Arena for practice Friday with the Washington Capitals, the veteran defenseman hopes he gets a chance to talk to his college coach, Jack Parker. After 40 years and three NCAA titles, Parker announced his retirement this week, effective at the end of the Terriers’ season.
“It’s a huge loss for BU hockey,” said Poti, who played two seasons under Parker from 1996-98. “I figured he’d be there forever. You think of BU hockey, you think of Jack Parker.”
Poti certainly isn’t the only one. Parker said at his retirement news conference that he has two daughters and 226 sons. He saw Boston University hockey as his family.
Parker has been the patriarch of Boston University Hockey for decades. Poti, a native of Worcester, Mass., chose Boston University in part because of its legendary coach.
“One of the reasons I picked BU was they had turned a lot of guys pro and he coached a lot of guys that went on to pros,” Poti said. “He kind of just helped me be a pro, learn the lifestyle and what to do, how to play.”
Several years earlier forward Keith Tkachuk went right to the Winnipeg Jets after a season at Boston University. Defenseman Scott Lachance parlayed one season under Parker into becoming the No. 4 pick in the NHL draft.
Poti put up 63 points in 76 games over two seasons with the Terriers after the Edmonton Oilers selected him No. 59 in the 1996 draft. But he only became a professional after learning under Parker.
“One of the biggest things he taught me was how to play defense,” Poti said. “Before I get there I was, in high school, all offense. He kind of said, ‘If you want to stick around, you’ve got to play some defense.’ He kind of taught me the defensive game, and I owe him a lot for that.”
This is Poti’s 13th NHL season, his longevity a testament to an all-around game shaped by Parker, who built a relationship the young defenseman as an underclassman.
“He didn’t care if you were a freshman or a senior, he treated you the same,” Poti said. “Maybe he was a little harder on the freshmen at times, but understandable. Maybe that’s what set him apart from a lot of the other guys was he treated everyone the same.”
Several hours after the Caps are off the ice at Agganis Arena, Boston University will host Merrimack in Game 1 of the Hockey East quarterfinals. It’s the place Poti skated during the lockout and a building that holds plenty of memories.
So many of them start with Parker.
“He was always talking to the guys, always helping the younger guys out, the freshmen,” Poti said. “I think he just kind of had command of the room. You respected him, you feared him, but you also loved to play for him. I think that’s why he’s been so successful for so many years.”