It’s my second season in between the pipes for the Rapid City Rush, and I finally have two custom-painted helmets to show for my time in the Black Hills! Special thanks to Shell Shock Custom Paint for helping me put the artwork together, and creating an unreal set of masks for me.
Goaltending is special for a number of reasons, but one reason is that we’re the only player on the ice that can have a helmet designed however we want. For us goalies, countless amounts of hours go into the design of a helmet. With this upcoming series against the Wichita Thunder coming on “Military Appreciation Weekend”, I couldn’t think of a more appropriate time to highlight one of the more meaningful parts of one of my new helmets.
On the back of my white helmet, I have an anchor. For outsiders and fans, they probably think it means that goaltending is the anchor position on the ice, the last line of defense, and a position where a game can be won or lost singlehandedly in an instant. For me, it’s more personal.
That anchor is representative of one of the most influential and loving men in my life, my grandfather. I knew him as my grandfather, but the United States Navy knew him as Marvin Richard Parks, Sr, EM3, or Electrician’s Mate Petty Officer Third Class.
My family has quite the military background. My grandfather served in the U.S. Navy from 1964 to 1970, right in the heart of the Vietnam War. He served five tours in Vietnam, and was also stationed in Japan and Hong Kong for a brief time as well. My grandmother’s father served in the U.S. Air Force, as did most of her brothers. Whenever “Military Appreciation Weekend” comes around, I always think of their sacrifice and service to our country, and couldn’t be more proud that they’ve represented my family throughout our history. Thankfully, my grandfather is still alive (75 years old, God bless him), so I get to thank him for both his military service and his impact on my life on a regular basis.
I grew up in a single parent household just outside of St. Louis, Missouri. My grandparents were there for me a lot as I grew up while my mother worked tirelessly, and sacrificed to provide for me as a child, especially when it came to playing hockey. My uncle, my mom’s brother, was a goaltender in roller hockey. While it was him that inspired me to first play the sport, it was my grandparents that were a driving force for my ability to play on a consistent basis, laying the groundwork for my professional career. My grandfather would buy me equipment, and made sure I always had what I needed to succeed. My grandmother, on the other hand, would take me to tournaments and games if my mom wasn’t available because of work. They had a huge impact on my ability to continue to play hockey, both financially and emotionally, and why I’ve been able to take my career as far as I have.
One of my favorite hockey memories with my grandfather was going to the Colorado Avalanche High Intensity Camp in the summer of 2001 when I was just 9 years old. It meant so much for me to go, because as a kid I was a huge Avalanche fan, especially of NHL goaltending legend Patrick Roy. As a young goalie, that was an easy player to support. Roy won four Stanley Cups, an NHL record three Conn Smythe Trophies as the Stanley Cup Playoff MVP, the Vezina Trophy as the NHL’s best goalie on three occasions, and was an 11-time NHL All-Star, among countless other accomplishments he’s had in his NHL career. My grandfather paid for my mom and I to fly out to Colorado for the camp, and it left a lasting impact on me. I even got to meet Bob Hartley, who was the Head Coach of the Avalanche at the time. He led the Avalanche to the President’s Trophy for the best regular season record, and the Stanley Cup Championship both in 2001. It was a special moment to meet a man whose name is immortalized on our sport’s most coveted trophy. Because I was such an Avalanche fan, and an obvious supporter of Patrick Roy, my grandfather also paid for me to get a Patrick Roy-painted helmet. It was my first helmet, and my mom still has it to this day.
My grandfather has only seen me play once as a professional, and it was back when I played in the SPHL. We have tried to get him out to Rapid City for a game, but his age and health haven’t cooperated well enough to allow him to come out to see me play for the Rush. Hopefully we can get him to a game so he can see the helmet, and his anchor on the back, up close.
My grandfather takes great pride in his service. He’s part of the VFW, Veterans of Foreign Wars, in St. Louis, and loves celebrating his fellow servicemen and women. If you’re ever in a bind getting my grandfather a Christmas or birthday gift, just get him something Navy-related. He’ll love it and want nothing else.
With respect to his military service, my hockey career, and life in general, my grandfather was a father figure throughout, and taught me many important lessons about life. He taught me to be neat, clean, and organized, especially with respect to being on time. He likes tasks to be done when they’re supposed to be done. Don’t be late. Be organized and ready to go for anything.
The most important thing that he taught me, however, is to work for everything you have and be humble with everything you receive. Like he did in his military career, have an agenda in your head and be precise with how you attack that agenda. It goes a long way in life, waking up every day with a goal in mind and an agenda on how to reach it. Once the goal is accomplished and met, be humble and keep working towards the next one. I credit that mindset with what I’ve accomplished in my hockey career, especially with the Rapid City Rush. From becoming a full-time ECHL goaltender, to becoming a winning ECHL goaltender, to then reaching the AHL level and doing the same thing there, the lessons from my grandfather have been invaluable to me, and I can’t thank him enough for the impact he’s had on my life.
The goaltender is the anchor of a team, the last line of defense, the only position on the ice that can singlehandedly win or lose you a game in an instant. For me, Marvin Richard Parks, Sr. is one of the anchors of my life, and without him and the lessons he taught me, I wouldn’t be standing where I am now. Every time I look at that anchor on my helmet, I think of his love for his family and for me, his service to our country, and how his example of organization, and precision in accomplishing goals has led me to the present day where I’m representing the Rapid City Rush in between the pipes on the ice.
God bless our military, active and retired, and God bless my grandfather. We can’t thank you enough for your service.