His crisp passing and style of play, helped hockey defenceman Brad Park spark offensive bursts and revolutionize the position for future generations.
As a youth growing up in Toronto, ON, Park played in the 1960 Quebec International Pee-Wee Hockey Tournament with the Scarboro Lions and 1965-1966 with the Toronto Westclairs and Toronto Marlboros (until 1968.)
He was drafted by the New York Rangers in the first round (second overall) in the 1966 NHL Amateur Draft and, after a brief stint with the minor-league Buffalo Bisons of the AHL, began playing for the Rangers in 1968.
As Park adjusted to the NHL, one of the early lessons he had to learn was timing.
“The veteran players showed me how the game relied on timing and to be able to read the situation to create something offensively,” Park said.
When looking back at his career, Park explained, that he never played defence until he was 15-years old and the different skills and techniques that he picked up at a young age from playing forward helped him when making the position switch.
“When I played for the (New York) Rangers, our coach Emile Francis never held me back,” Park said. “With the success we were having, he encouraged me to display my offensive skillset and setup some odd man break situations.”
During his career, Park was continuously compared to Boston Bruins, great, Bobby Orr.
Park said he didn’t dwell on the comparisons and recognized that (Orr) was probably the best player in the game during the early part of his own career.
“Overall, it just gave me a lot of determination to compete that much harder when we played each other,” Park said. “I would watch how he would control the game and I learned to do the same thing, as I wasn’t going to pass the puck unless it beats somebody. If you make a pass for no reason, it could definitely lead to a turnover.”
“If Bobby Orr wasn’t born, he’d have won seven Norris Trophies,” Park’s former head coach Don Cherry said of him, in multiple interviews over the years.
Park had a five-year stretch in New York (from 1969-70 through 1973-74) in which he was named to the first All-Star Team three times and the second team twice, while finishing as the runner-up to Bobby Orr for the Norris Trophy four times and finishing third in the balloting once.
After opening the 1975-76 season, with its worst start in 10 years, the Rangers sent Park to the Boston Bruins in a blockbuster deal.
In Boston, Park made a smooth transition and helped rejuvenate the Bruins.
From 1977-79, Cherry’s “Lunch Pail A.C.” captured three division titles for the Bruins. Park earned two First All-Star Team selections, while coming in second in the Norris Trophy race twice in a Bruins’ uniform, with 1977-78 being considered one of his finest seasons.
In 1977 and 1978, Park was a key contributor to Boston’s back-to-back appearances in the Stanley Cup Finals where they lost to the Montreal Canadiens both times.
His last highlight with Boston came in Game 7 of the Adams Division finals against the Buffalo Sabres in the 1983 playoffs, when Park scored the game-winning goal in overtime and helped Boston advance in to the conference finals.
Park’s career overlapped with the first four years of the emerging superstar defenceman of the Bruins, Raymond Bourque, from 1979 to 1983.
Park finished his career with the Detroit Red Wings after signing as a free agent prior to the 1983-84 season. His career was cut short due to knee injuries after the 1984-85 season. He was named to the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1988 in his first year of eligibility.
When reflecting on his whole career, Park mentioned he would like to be remembered as a player that loved every minute of it and showed up ready to play every night.