Former Buffalo Sabres winger Jeff Parker, who played parts of four seasons for the team in the 1980s and became a plaintiff in the concussion lawsuit filed against the NHL in 2015, died Monday, the Hennepin County medical examiner’s office said Thursday in a report in the Minneapolis Star-Tribune. Parker was 53.
Melina Miller, Parker’s partner of 10 years, told TSN his brain will be donated to researchers at Boston University. Miller said Parker died from a heart and lung infection. The BU clinic tests for chronic traumatic encephalopathy and has diagnosed CTE in two other former Sabres, enforcer Reggie Fleming and longtime star Rick Martin.
Parker was one of 16 former Sabres involved in the lawsuit against the league, with the most prominent being former Buffalo defenseman and longtime broadcaster Mike Robitaille.
Parker was a sixth-round pick of the Sabres in 1982 and played three years for Michigan State, including as a member of the Spartans' 1986 national championship team. Parker started his pro career in 1986-87 for the Rochester Americans and played 137 of his 141 career NHL games for the Sabres, collecting all of his 16 goals and 19 assists in a Buffalo uniform.
Parker was involved in eight fights in his NHL career. He was known as "Crash" during his days at Michigan State.
“I play a physical game. I take the body and I know how to play in the corner," Parker said in a 1986 story in The News written by Hall of Famer writer Jim Kelley. "… I feel I’m ready to play as hard as a I can. I know it will be difficult but I’ve played with pressure before … I always like a hitting game, and I want to be able to do that here.”
Parker's best year in Buffalo was 1988-89, when he had nine goals and nine assists in 57 games and appeared in all five games of Buffalo's first-round playoff defeat to Boston.
Parker was a regular for the Sabres in '88-89 and 1989-90 but his career ended during the 1990-91 season after a concussion-causing hit while he was playing for the Hartford Whalers.