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Pro hockey: Watertown’s Parks, 46, enjoys pro hockey moment in goal

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No matter how John Parks spends his weekend, there’s probably no way he can top last Saturday.

After six years of serving as the emergency practice goalie, the 46-year-old Watertown native signed a one-day contract to play goalie for the Syracuse Crunch, the American Hockey League affiliate of the NHL’s Tampa Bay Lightning.

Parks, who works in pharmaceuticals in Clay and is an assistant coach for the Syracuse University club hockey team and the Syracuse Christian Brothers Academy boys hockey team, didn’t play in the game but was compensated with a jersey and a $300 game check.

“Everything that day, from the phone call, being put on notice to the phone call saying that I was getting called up, to arriving there and everything in the pregame, signing the contract. Everything in the entire day was fantastic,” Parks said.

Parks — a 1986 Watertown High School graduate — didn’t know he was going to suit up until 11 a.m. that morning. The game was scheduled for 3 p.m.

The father of two dropped his son off at a hockey tournament and was driving his daughter to a swim meet when he received the phone call from Crunch Chief Operating Officer Jim Sarosy.

“He said, ‘I’m officially putting you on notice.’ So that was awesome to hear that,” Parks said. “At that point I thought just to get that close and be put on notice is still something pretty special. Just a little bit of hope.”

He added: “The most nervous time I had during the whole day was that moment. From getting the call to be put on notice, then driving home just thinking about the possibility and concentrating on getting home because obviously I’m kind of daydreaming about the possibility of getting to suit up, then getting the call to come in.”

Before Parks returned home, Sarosy called again to confirm that he was being signed for the day as the backup goalie. Parks said he raced to the arena to sign the contract before something could happen to take the opportunity away.

The Crunch issued a press release and Parks said word spread through social media before the puck dropped. Parks said he had friends and family travel down from Watertown to watch the game.

“It was super excitement, I got a lot of comments from the players and I kind of became the most popular guy on the ice that night and in the autograph line,” Parks said. “I thought it was kind of odd, again at my age, to be doing anything like that.”

Parks tried out for the practice goalie position six years ago. He held the spot as the Crunch changed National Hockey League affiliates from the Columbus Blue Jackets, to the Anaheim Ducks, to the Lightning.

In the days leading to Parks’s call-up, both Crunch goalies were called up to the Lightning as injury replacements.

Allen York, who started and played ahead of Parks, was then signed and the organization’s CHL goalie, Grant Rollheiser, was supposed to come in as the backup. But flight delays stranded Rollheiser in Cleveland and Parks got the call.

“This is kind of a ‘break glass in case of emergency’ situation, and it actually happened,” Parks said.

Parks said the reaction in the past week has been overwhelming. He received phone calls from members of the Tampa Bay front office.

His wife, Teri, created him a Twitter account so he could follow it all.

“I’m not a big social media guy but I am all the sudden finding myself looking at Twitter on my phone when I have a free minute,” Parks said.

He added: “It’s been overwhelming. Since it happened, I’ve had approximately 300-400 text messages, I’ve done a few TV interviews and I have so many numbers on my phone that I don’t recognize.”

Parks said that he, his wife and two kids spend much of their summers in Alexandria Bay.

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