Jack Parker's Wiseguys: The National Champion BU Terriers, the Blizzard of ’78, and the Road to the Miracle on Ice
Over the winter of 1977–78, anyone within shouting distance of a two-mile stretch of Boston’s Commonwealth Avenue―from Fenway Park to the trolley curve at Packard’s Corner―found themselves pulled into the orbit of college hockey. The hottest ticket in a sports-mad city was Boston University’s Terriers, a team so tough it was said they didn’t have fans―they took hostages. Eschewing the usual recruiting pools in Canada, Jack Parker and his coaching staff assembled a squad that included three stars from nearby Charlestown, then known as the “armed robbery capital of America.” Jack Parker’s Wiseguys is the story of a high-flying, headline-dominating, national championship squad led by three future stars of the Miracle on Ice, the medal-round game the 1980 U.S. Olympic hockey team won against the heavily favored Soviet Union. Now retired, Parker is a thoughtful statesman for the sport, a revered figure who held the longest tenure of any coach in Boston sports history. But during the 1977–78 season, he was just five years into his reign―and only a decade or so older than his players. Fiery, mercurial, as tough as any of his tough guys, Parker and his team were to face the pressure-cooker expectations of four previous also-ran seasons, further heightened by barroom brawls, off-the-ice shenanigans, and the citywide shutdown caused by one of the biggest blizzards to ever hit the Northeast. This season was to be Parker’s watershed, a roller-coaster ride of nail-biting victories and unimaginable tragedy, played out in increasingly strident headlines as his team opened the season with an unprecedented twenty-one straight wins. Only the second loss of the year eliminated the Terriers from their league playoffs and possibly from national contention; hours after the game Parker’s wife died from cancer. The story of how the team responded―coming back to win the national championship a week after Parker buried his wife―makes a compelling tale for Boston sports fans and everyone else who feels a thrill of pride at America’s unlikely win over the Soviet national team―a victory forged on Commonwealth Avenue in that bitter, beautiful winter of ’78.
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