"I'm only 34, and I wanted to play at least five more years," the man in the dark glasses said yesterday as the media strained to catch his low, hesitating voice.
"But they tell me I can't."
Exit Bernie Parent from the National Hockey League.
In times past, Parent-one of hockey's premier goalies of the 1970s, fulcrum of the upstart Philadelphia Flyers' Stanley Cup triuphs of 1974 and 1975-had predicted he could go on unitl he was 38: "A goaltender can play as long as hie eyes are goods."
So, he came back from a serious ankle injury in 1972; from virtual banishment resulting from his 1972 jump (for one year) as first NHL player to bolt to the World Hockey Association; from nearly an entire season out after a 1975 neck disk operation that some say permanently robbed him of his great reflexes. He kept coming back until Feb. 17, 1979-when it happened.
Tending against the New York Rangers Parent was accidentally poked in the right eye by team-mate Jimmy Watson's stick - a freak occurrence, through the eyehole of his mask.
His vision has been imparied ever since - "It is legitimate," said the Flyers' physician, "to call him disabled permanently from an insurance standpoint. . . . We are concerned that a future blow could further damage the lens and further worsen the secondary glaucoma."
Parent goes out as No. 1 Flyer forever-his No. 1 jersey being retired. They'll make an occasion of it next season, one more chance for the adoring cries of "Ber-nee! Ber-nee!" to echo through the Spectrum . . .
Forget about the Larry BirdBoston Celtics announcement due today. Red Auerbach and Bob Woolf both "had to be away" and put off meeting until next week . . .
Wonder how earlier U.Va. recruit Lewis Lattimore, 6-8 1/2 leader of a 24-9 Allegany Community College team in Cumberland, Md., last leason, feels in light of last night's word from Harrisonburg? . . . Oh, those Virginia recruiters: also picked off recently Vince Draddy of Iona Prep, New York state's schoolboy trackster of the year, winner of the Millrose high school mile indoors (4:13) and the Penn Relays ditto outdoors (4:09.3).
Happy 50th anniversary to the Potomac Valley Association of the AAU, which will celebrate same at its anual awards dinner tonight 7:30, Touchdown Club . . . The NFL Players Association has narrowed down 28 nominations for the annual humanitarian award named for Justice Whizzer White to three: Ken Houston, Roger Staubach, Franco Harris: winner to be announced at June 10 banquet in Chicago. Nominees rooted here included not only Redskin Houston and Annapolis alum Staubach but Buffalo's Tony Greene from Gaithersburg, Philly's John Bunting from Silver Spring . . . Abe and Irene Pollin keep contributing, currently prepping to act as honorary hosts for the fourth annual MS Dinner of Champions (National Multiple Sclerosis Society), June 15 at Shoreham-American . . .
Bon voyage to Tom Schneider, GW basketball assitant these seven years. Former Georgetown Prep and Bucknell athlete Schnieder, 32, is shifting to Penn-(Final Four)-sylvania to assist Bob Weinhauer and noting, "Traditionally, coaches have succeeded well from there."