He did his parents proud

DEREK VAN DIEST -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 8:56 AM ET

Jack Coffey said it best.

"It's just like one of your kids taking you on a 21-year trip," said Paul Coffey's father. "That's how good it was."

The trip came to an end yesterday as the Edmonton Oilers officially retired Paul Coffey's number.

The team had an elaborate ceremony prior to their contest against the Phoenix Coyotes.

Coffey's parents Jack and Betty were there to take it all in.

"They did a wonderful job," said Betty. "The whole building brought back a lot of memories."

"It was awesome," said Jack.

"Just awesome."

It had been a while since the Coffeys had been in what is now Rexall Place.

But back in the day, the two were fixtures during the Oilers' Stanley Cup runs.

Betty had actually been a fixture at the rink from Paul's early days as an Oiler.

"I came out here a lot, because when Paul first came here, he was lonely," she said. "So I did a lot of travelling to stay with him. Jack couldn't get a lot of time off from work, so I was here a lot. I enjoyed the people in Edmonton. They always made you welcome. It was great to come here."

It would not have been the same for Coffey had his parents and his family not been here.

PAUL COFFEY NIGHT

This was Paul Coffey night in Edmonton. And considering the role they played in making Coffey one of the best defencemen in NHL history, it was fitting to have Jack and Betty at centre ice as the banner was raised to the rafters.

"It was great having them here," said Coffey. "My mom and dad were such a big part of my early days in Edmonton. I think, as you get older in life, you get a chance to appreciate things more.

"My dad delivered bread for most of his life and he was out there every day at four in the morning and he'd get home at two in the afternoon and go out there and get ready for hockey.

"It's something at the time you don't think anything of. You just think that's what he does. You look on that now, and it's a pretty big commitment. But he didn't do it because he wanted me to be in the NHL. He did it because he loved his kids."

PARENTS OF THREE CHILDREN

As parents of three children, the Coffeys never had NHL ambitions for their only son. They were just there to support him in any way possible.

"I don't remember ever being pushed," said Coffey. "I remember being told to work hard. It wasn't about winning and losing, it was about going out there and doing your best."

Coffey's best took him to the pinnacle of his profession. And there was a point in minor hockey where Jack saw the real potential in his son.

"There was once when he was playing Tier 2 hockey and there was a party in town," Jack said. "He didn't go and he didn't miss it. That's when I felt he had a good shot at it. His party was on the ice."

And his smooth skating ability?

"That was the man upstairs," Jack said.

As for mom -- she was just your typical hockey mom regardless of what her son was accomplishing on the ice.

"It's just like being a mother of a son and you didn't put all the glory on him," she said. "You didn't think of it that way. It was nice when people recognized it and told you your son is good. But thousands of kids want to be in the NHL, so for me it was a long way off."


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