By: Rod Pedersen
Welcome to Shockey Hockey Part II where we’ll settle into some more hockey stories with Parry Shockey and allow the grizzled WHL coach (Spokane, Lethbridge, Regina & Moose Jaw) to get some things off his chest after 15 years away from the benches of the Dub.
I actually wasn’t going to post this article until next week but DUBNetwork readers were clamouring for more after last week’s Part 1! Shocks couldn’t believe it when I told him my phone blew up from former referees, penalty box attendants, coaches, scouts, broadcasters, and of course former WHL players from all over the continent who loved his stories and memories.
This installment is going to take you even deeper inside the rock ‘em, sock ‘em 1990s WHL when Shockey was a champion, All-Star team coach, and the quintessential “hockey guy”.
When we left off, Shockey had just been fired as head coach of the Regina Pats just 11 games into the 1998-99 season. That’s where Shockey and I’d worked together and become friends.
At that point in his life, Parry was 44 years old and at a crossroads. Did he want to stay in the game by trying to get back on the bench somewhere else or look at another career entirely?
He ended up taking a bit of a detour and got into scouting with the Los Angeles Kings.
“When I travelled to Brandon or Moose Jaw to scout games as a coach, I’d jump in with scouts like Lorne Davis (Oilers) or Al Murray (Kings),” Shockey recalled from his home in Lethbridge. “I always treated the scouts well. I just felt they’re entitled to have information that they require to make their decisions. I never blew smoke up anybody’s tailpipe. If there was an issue with a player, like a maturity level, they need to know that stuff.
“Al Murray asked me to work part-time with the L.A. Kings plus I was doing radio with Mark Stiles for the Calgary Hitmen. Then the Kings came back and wanted me to go full-time so I had to give up the radio even though (legendary Flames voice) Peter Maher said I had a future in broadcasting if I wanted it.”
But there seems to be something about coaching. At least for coaches anyway. Shockey spent close to five years finding players for L.A. but the itch to get back behind the bench was just too strong.
In 2004 he answered the call from the Moose Jaw Warriors about their vacant job and ended up leaving scouting again. Would he regret it? Read on…
“That probably was a bit of a black mark on me in the scouting community because I don’t think they like you doing both,” Shockey remembered. “You kinda have to be either a scout or a coach.”
Was it a bad decision? You decide for yourself. Shockey didn’t even last a full season in The Jaw. In fact, he was fired on December 6, 2004, just 31 games into his first campaign.
“Here’s the deal; I got hired by Rick Dorman,” Shocks began. “His Assistant GM/Head Scout was Wade Klippenstein. Before the year even started, Wade resigned and went to Alaska-NCAA. They changed the whole board in August. They had their AGM and voted everybody off the board and replaced them with all new people.
“So now Rick Dorman is in the lemon-squeezer. It was a really, really tough situation. You know Moose Jaw and how they do business. There’s certain people I think who sit on the board and there’s other people who sit in the coffee shop and direct the board. It’s that type of community. The real power there is outside the Board of Directors. I think there’s a lot of businessmen in the city who make the decisions.”
To say it was a disaster would be an understatement. The Warriors were 2-23-5-1 when Shockey was let go.
“It was a rebuilding year,” Parry shrugged. “Lane Manson didn’t come back as a 20-year old. Kyle Brodziak they thought would come back and he didn’t. So it’s a real young team with guys like Troy Brouwer, Dustin Boyd, that group. It was a good group of kids but had no leadership.
“I really liked the kids and thought they were good. How long’s Brouwer been in the NHL? Boyd’s still playing I think. Anyways Dorman gets fired and they decide Chad Lang’s going to be the GM/Office/PR/Business guy on one side and I’ll run Hockey Operations on the other. We made a bunch of trades and one was for Stuart Kerr from Red Deer. When he came in, the dressing room changed immediately and I got fired.
“You want to talk about hard feelings? When you’re selling your house in Alberta and the president of the hockey club tells you you’re good to go and twelve days later they fire you … that hurts. I’d sold this beautiful home that I’d built myself thinking I’d be here to turn them around then boom, I’m fired in December.”
In typical Shockey Hockey fashion, he did what he thought was best at the time and gave it his all. He feels he turned the ship in the right direction in an era they still talk about in the Band City.
“There was trades I’d made and some others I was about to do with Red Deer and Lethbridge,” the Taber product said. “I changed the culture, Brouwer and those guys learned how to be leaders, Kenndal McArdle was one of the up-and-comers, Riley Holzapfel was there. There was some really, really good material there to work with.”
And from there, Parry Shockey’s life turned on a dime. He went back to his “other” career and enjoyed success, but came thisclose to losing his life in the process.
“After what’s happened, I’m lucky to be alive,” Shockey sighed. “I went back into the Oil & Gas business because that’s where I’d come from. As it turned out, a lot of the young engineers I’d worked with over the years and built relationships with had moved up into supervisory roles. I came back into this and walked right into offices in Downtown Calgary that you just don’t walk into. I did lunches with guys who don’t do lunches because I’d bought them a burger in Grassy Lake, AB when he was just out-of-school-kind-of-guys.”
Oh, the itch to return to hockey was still there. It always was and always will be. But the warm fuzzies of big dollars tend to snuff that out.
“I’d always had lots of success in sales in the Oil & Gas industry,” Shockey grinned. “I had a chance to go back into hockey but I was making really good money. I told the guy I was working for that my passion was hockey and I was going back and he doubled my salary on the spot. He said ‘You’re not going back into hockey’. I went from making good money to great money and I was never going to make that going through the battles as a coach in the WHL. Do I regret that? In a sense I do because I love guiding, directing, and coaching kids. Not just in hockey, but in life.”
And I can tell you surefire here and now that Shockey has no regrets about his time in the Dub.
“I never had any kid come back to me with a problem,” Shockey said proudly. “(Former Warriors captain) Aaron Richards is an example. I traded Richards to Kamloops and he was fuming. Spitting mad. I told him he was getting an opportunity with the Blazers that we couldn’t give him because the Warriors were rebuilding. He was so mad! Five years later I’m in Whitefish, MT, and Aaron Richards is there with the Norrie brothers, the Vandermeers, Travis Brigley and they’re all golfing.
“In the Great Northern Bar one night I ran into them all and Richards came up and said, ‘Shocks I need to apologize for the way I acted and the things I said. You did me such a favour’.”
Another big part of Parry Shockey’s life story is a horrific, fatal car accident 3 ½ years ago on a stretch of highway between Lethbridge and Calgary. Let him tell the story…
“I was basically busted from the tips of my toes to my shoulders,” Shockey recalled. “The fact I didn’t have a head injury is a miracle. My vehicle was destroyed. There wasn’t much left of it. The unfortunate part, and it still affects me, is that a young woman lost her life. She pulled out to pass a semi on a single-lane highway. It was head-on. They deemed it no-fault.”
Overall Shockey’s come out of the accident okay, physically. He’s back to golfing and living a normal life but is still battling PTSD episodes and the various mental health maladies that go with it. And of course, he still thinks about hockey.
“My love of the game is still there,” Shocks said cheerfully. “The things that’ve happened to me, that happens in everyday life. I’ve worked with some really good people, coached against some great coaches. I’ve had winning records against the Mike Babcocks, Todd McLellans and Brent Petersons. I’ve held my own as a coach.
“I’ve worked with great guys too. Ron Kraft was an outstanding assistant coach with me in Regina. Our only pitfall in Regina was one person.
“I don’t want to be the players’ buddy. I told them that right now you may not like me because I’m tough on you but when you leave here I’ll be your biggest fan. I will know that I provided you with some tools to get you where you’re at and I’ll appreciate watching you.
“When I got fired in Regina, Gregg Drinnan came up to me and said, ‘A lot of those players don’t like you!’ and I told him, ‘Come to my house 5-6 days out of the week and my kids don’t like me either!’ I took care of those players the same way as I did my kids. I want them to be successful and want to prepare them for adversity because at some point they’re going to face it. How do you react when you don’t get what you want?”
As promised way back at the beginning of Shockey Hockey Part 1, Parry had some things he wanted to get off his chest and I’d say we’ve covered most of that. But there’s still a really big one left, both literally and figuratively. It involves famed NHL fighter and Regina Pats alum Derek “The Boogie Man” Boogaard.
“I have had – and still do – a tremendous amount of respect for Derek Boogaard,” Parry asserted. “Here’s just a massive human being (6’7”, 258 lbs) with just a teddy bear heart. Just a good, good person. He was never going to play in the NHL as a player. The only way he was going to get there was as an enforcer. Did I promote that? No I did not.
“It’s been written otherwise but I never tapped a player, ever (told them to fight). Did I put invitations out for people? Ya, I did. I’d say ‘We need a TSN Turning Point’ and they all knew what it meant. They had a choice whether or not they wanted to be that guy. That’s the way the game was played. I never tapped Derek Boogaard to go. The pressure he felt to fight came from his teammates. And at 16, we all know he shouldn’t have been fighting.”
While with the Pats, Boogaard was drafted in the 7th round of the 2001 NHL Draft by the Minnesota Wild. He’d go on to play 277 games with the Wild and Rangers before tragically losing his life on May 13, 2011, at the age of 28, due to an accidental opioid overdose related to his recovery from a concussion.
“I ran into him in Calgary one time,” Shockey remembered. “I was walking downtown with some business guys who were hockey fans and they were all excited saying ‘there’s Derek Boogaard!’ He was getting closer to us and I said ‘Hey Boogie!’ and he friggin’ almost jumped out of his suit to come give a hug. I don’t think Derek ever thought I compromised him. But I watched him fight Colton Orr on TV one night and when they put the camera on him on the bench, I could just see the inner turmoil he was in.”
Fighting never really was Boogie’s thing but I was there when he showed up in Regina for the first time. The Pats listed him the day after he jumped in the opposition’s bench during a minor hockey game in Melfort. The Pats players all loved him and he was a genuinely happy, quiet kid. But there was never any doubt what it was going to take for Derek Boogaard to advance from junior hockey.
Dropping the mitts.
“This is the code of the game and everybody knows this,” Shockey said. “If they don’t, they should know it; every kid by the Christmas break wanted to have at least one game sheet where they’d had a fight. It was like a rite of passage for those kids. You’d say ‘what are you thinking?’ but you couldn’t stop them. It was a code amongst the players to stand up for your team or yourself.
“Did I agree with it as a coach? Not a chance, but I can tell you one thing: you can’t stop it. I talked to players who had no reason to fight but they did it because they just knew that was the rite of passage in the league. They loved it. They were a brotherhood of players.
“But I’ll say it again; I never promoted it. We went into Kelowna one night and the whole league was buzzing about the heavyweight bout that was gonna take place between Kyle Freadrich and Scott Parker. Freddy was the heavyweight on our side and Scott Parker from the Rockets was the toughest guy in the West. I never put Kyle out at the same time as Parker because I figured they could line it up themselves. The fight never happened.”
You can judge for yourself whether this was a good thing or not but it’s clear major strides have been taken to eliminate “the code” from junior hockey. It’s pretty rare to see a fight at your local WHL game these days and even bodychecking seems to have become passe.
I often wonder how many of today’s players could’ve even survived in the 1980s and 90’s?
“I love the Western Hockey League and its product but there are some things that’ve gone too far,” Shockey agreed. “There still has to be a physical component to the game. But I also believe there needs to be a respect factor implemented by the players. They know what the guidelines and parameters are but they keep moving toward the finesse of the game.
“Those NHL playoffs this year, there weren’t any fights or ‘fight-fights’ but those were physical battles. There were 130-some hits in one game between Tampa Bay and Dallas.”
That brings us to the end of Shockey Hockey Part II. However, for some reason, I get the inkling that we’re not done with one of our favourite coaches.
Shocks says talking about all this stuff has stoked the fire which has always burned inside him for the wonderful game of hockey, and there are plenty more roads we can go down from here.
(PHOTOS: Royal Studios/Minnesota Wild)