If there’s one thing we’ve learned through eight months or so of this pandemic, it’s that people love the hockey stories. Love, love, love them.
What I find most amusing is that very few of the legendary tales actually include any stories from the ice!
And nobody can spin a yarn like famed coach and scout Parry Shockey. Nicknamed “Shocks”, or “Parry S. Hockey”, or “Shockey’s the name, hockey’s the game!”, the Taber, AB product is certainly unforgettable. When he shakes your hand, Parry comes out of left field with it and is grinning from ear-to-ear. Always is. But he’s had his tough times.
The former coach of the Spokane Chiefs, Lethbridge Hurricanes, Regina Pats, and Moose Jaw Warriors – plus scout for the L.A. Kings – reached out to me recently after stumbling across The Rod Pedersen Show on Game+ TV at his home in Lethbridge.
It had been a full 15 years since we’d spoken but we’d certainly shared thousands of bus miles and spaghetti meals when the two of us were together for parts of two seasons with the Pats in the wild and woolly 1990s WHL.
And after all these years, Shocks has a few things he’d like to get off his chest about how things went down during his time in the Dub. They include firings in Regina and Moose Jaw plus being unfairly painted as the coach who pushed Derek Boogaard into fighting all those years ago. Oh, and being pushed aside as coach of the 1997 Memorial Cup Final in Hull, QC, his great relationship with Mike Babcock, the horrific car crash on a stretch of road between Lethbridge and Calgary 3 ½ years ago which crushed nearly every bone in his body, and, many, many more wild things!
As a matter of fact, I had to split this feature into two parts because there’s just too much good material.
So here goes. Shockey Hockey Part 1.
It all started in Alberta in the early 90s when Shockey attended a coaching symposium in Calgary featuring headliner Mike Babcock. Babcock was on his way up the coaching ladder and Shockey was a guy coaching AAA Midget in Lethbridge. He’d also been scouting in the Dub going back to 1974 for Dave King’s Billings Bighorns, Tim Speltz’s Medicine Hat Tigers, and later Speltz’s Spokane Chiefs.
“Speltzie went to Spokane so I followed him as a scout, Mike Babcock comes along and we get to be good buddies,” Shockey reflected from his home in Lethbridge this week. “Babs was coaching with the University of Lethbridge Pronghorns, I joined him there, and halfway through the season (1993-94), Bryan Maxwell quits as coach in Spokane. I’m the only guy on the Chiefs scouting staff who has coaching experience. I coached one game, got my ass handed to me by Portland, Mike Fedorko comes in and finishes the year, then Mike Babcock comes in as head coach and I stayed with him as assistant coach for two years (1994-96).
“Then Maxwell gets the GM/Head Coach job in Lethbridge, he gets in that fiasco with the referee (Brent) Reiber, he gets suspended for a year and the Hurricanes call me to be interim coach for ’96-’97. I was local, from Taber, knew the Maxwell family, and I came in. But it was a tough situation.”
Shocks conveniently glossed over the Maxwell/Reiber incident but it’s worth telling, especially if you aren’t aware of it. (The people in the WHL office reading this feature best stop reading now!) In the 1996 WHL Playoffs, after Game 3 between the Hurricanes and Pats in the Lethbridge Sportsplex, Maxwell allegedly assaulted referee Brent Reiber under the stands after a heated OT loss.
I’m fairly comfortable telling the story now because I was there broadcasting the game on Regina Pats radio! Charges were brought against Maxwell but were eventually dropped and to the best of my knowledge, the case never got to trial. But yes, Maxwell was suspended for the entire 1996-97 season by the WHL, the following year.
Back to Shocks…
“Terrible, terrible situation actually,” Shockey said of filling in for Maxwell. “The league handled the situation ‘sorta/kinda/not really’ with guidelines that were gray. The league wasn’t going to give us any breaks on anything. We had guys like Dale Purinton and Mike O’Grady and they’d do something that likely warranted a 2-game suspension but ended up getting 5-games or something like that. We were under a microscope big-time. The league was all over us so I give those kids all kinds of credit.
“I sat down with them all one day and said, ‘I’m in the same situation as all of you. I’m not happy or comfortable either. So we need to – within the confines of this dressing room – battle through it as a group as best we can for ourselves’. We kind of became the Bad News Bears. All the distractions, they just shook it off.”
As it turned out, the Hurricanes came out on top. They won 47 games and captured the 1997 WHL championship in a 4-game sweep of the Seattle Thunderbirds. I actually called some games for the Canes on that run as their legendary voice Steve “Foggy” Falwell fell ill.
I couldn’t remember; was Bryan Maxwell allowed in the building at all during the season when he was suspended?
“That was the gray area,” Shockey remembered. “He was allowed in the building up until a certain time on game day and then after a certain time after the game. It was designed so that he wouldn’t have any contact with the other team or the referees.”
It all seemed to be working great, right? It did until Shockey guided the Hurricanes all the way to the Memorial Cup championship final in Hull against the host Olympiques. Then, miraculously, the WHL and CHL dropped the suspension and allowed Maxwell to coach in the final on national television.
CAN YOU BELIEVE IT!?
“Is this going to be in your article?” Shockey asked when I quizzed him on being shoved aside for Maxy’s return in the biggest game in Lethbridge Hurricanes history. “Here’s what I believe. Hindsight’s always 20/20. Personally, I didn’t think it was a great idea for him to come back on the bench.”
So what went into the reversal of the suspension?
“After we won the WHL, the league lifted the suspension and said you’re allowed to be around the rooms,” Shockey explained. “Dev Dley was the WHL Commissioner and I think they had their own reasons for lifting the suspension that I’ll keep to myself. Maxy wanted to be on the bench and a big reason was to win three Memorial Cups with three different teams. He’d won with Medicine Hat, Spokane, and here was his chance with Lethbridge.”
But this time it didn’t work out. Hull routed the Hurricanes 5-1 in a game Lethbridge was never really in. How would it have turned out if Maxwell stayed off the bench and Shockey was allowed to finish the job?
We’ll never know. But in the summer of ’97, Shockey was hired as head coach of the Regina Pats, replacing the popular Rich Preston. While the team won a lot of games, Shockey’s time in Regina was rocky and as it turned out, regrettable.
“I came from the development side of the game where I believe you have to allow the players to play but there has to be boundaries and discipline and that has to be pretty definitive,” Shockey offered, referring to taking over from a popular players’ coach like Preston. “As much as everybody says ‘hard-ass’, I had high expectations for the players and the team. I always wanted what’s best for the team.”
Obviously, Shockey’s stock at the time was high, coming off that WHL championship season in Lethbridge. He actually had his pick of jobs.
“I could’ve went to Kamloops,” Parry revealed. “While I was dealing with Regina, I was dealing with the Blazers too and was courting Marc Habscheid to come with me as Assistant. He told me ‘whichever one you don’t take, I got’. I made a mistake and took the Regina job.”
He’s right. I know that, and he knows that. But perhaps not many of you know that. So Parry explained…
“Hindsight, I knew (Blazers GM) Stu McGregor way better than I knew (Pats GM) Brent Parker. I listened to the advice of some people within the league that thought this franchise was going to do all the right things. I got directed that way in some respects.
“We had a great team (winning 46 games in 1997-98). Our dressing room was destined to win it. We went out and got Ronald Petrovicky, Todd Fedoruk, John Cirjak, Dmitri Yakushin, Clint Cabana, and Harlan Pratt. I knew all those guys. Josh Holden was just outstanding. Did Josh and I clash to start with? Sure we did.”
Funny how these things come up decades later. Holden was as skilled a player as I’d ever seen and was a first-round pick (12th overall) of the Vancouver Canucks in 1996. But he and Shockey clashed, big time.
It came to a head one night in Tri-Cities on our West Coast road trip in November of 1997.
“It was just a verbal spat that started on the bench and carried over into the hallway and the players saw it,” Shockey shrugged. “He had an opinion and I had an opinion but the Golden Rule applied. He who has the gold makes the rules. I don’t think it ever affected our relationship, the type of person Josh is, and I also think players should be allowed to have an opinion.”
All these years later – a week ago Monday as a matter of fact – Holden apologized for the incident in an interview on The Rod Pedersen Show. He’s coaching in Switzerland now, but wanted to get it off his chest because it’s been bothering him for 23 years!
“I appreciated it,” Shockey said of Holden’s apology, which he was watching live. “I think he felt bad but it was water off a duck’s back for me. Josh Holden apologized which he probably should’ve felt that way but he was 18 years old at the time and ruled the roost playing however he wanted. Josh Holden could walk into the NHL today and be a superstar.”
The stint in Regina didn’t end well. In the 1998 WHL Playoffs the Pats lost out in Round 2 to Brandon in a 5-game series. That was also the playoff year Holden suffered the horrific injury where a skate gashed the top of his left wrist, severing four tendons, and he was never the same again. Shockey was fired less than a dozen games into the following season (1998-99) and replaced by his Assistant Coach Tim Tisdale.
But the story didn’t end there. Not by a longshot.
“Well first I had to get bought out of my contract, which was a process,” Shockey sighed. “The hockey industry is a different bird. At that time In the Western Hockey League, people thought I should just take what was being offered as a settlement but I didn’t think that was fair. I believe when they fire you, you’re still entitled to it all. That took awhile.”
We’re going to end there for now, at over 2,000 words.
Can you believe the best and wildest stories are yet to come? Parry’s going to get into who actually runs the Moose Jaw Warriors, his side of the Boogaard story, and how these days he simply feels lucky to be alive.
Shockey Hockey indeed.
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