Longtime Minnesota Wild player Zach Parise’s name is certainly one Wild fans know like the back of their hand for better or for worse.
Parise, a Minnesota native, has seen his name all over local and national news since the day he signed a whopping 13 year 98 million dollar contract with the Wild alongside teammate Ryan Suter on July 4, 2012.
While Parise has certainly gotten used to seeing his name dragged through the mud, he’s spent 9 years fighting off criticism related to the magnitude of his contract with each year fans questioning more and more whether Parise has been worth it, but within this last year it’s felt different.
Within the last year, the Minnesotan has battled through a level of background noise, he hasn’t seen in years. However, the true story here is how Parise hasn’t let any of this noise change his demeanor nor devoting to his hometown hockey team.
One year ago, Wild general manager Billy Guerin approached Parise about a possibility of a trade and up until the bells ran on the 3 o’clock trade deadline on February 24, 2020, many were on “Parise watch” wondering if the Wild forward had put on his Wild green sweater for the last time. Even when there were ongoing reports that the Wild and New York Islanders were in serious trade discussions regarding Parise with one another, Parise maintained focus on the Wild’s schedule.
On February 25th, when the media met with Parise to discuss the whirlwind of rumors that had come and gone, Parise reiterated his devotion to the “State of Hockey” and channeled his inner Stoic by laughing off questions on his rediscovered future with the Wild saying, “I’m thinking about the Blue Jackets and winning this game and closing that gap in the playoff (race).”
Parise wanted to stay ready for Columbus
Flash forward to the 2021 season, the 36 year old veteran, found himself back in the news when an exhausted Parise stayed on the ice during an extended shift and was unofficially credited with an assist when the puck bounced off his stick directly to a Golden Knights player who passed it to Alex Tuch for the one-timer gametieing goal which would eventually lead to a Wild loss at the start of overtime.
Tuch, a former teammate on the Wild with Parise, couldn’t help but celebrate with glee as all Parise could do was look on in disbelief.
The following day Wild coach Dean Evason announced Parise would be a healthy scratch for the first time in his Wild career in the final game of the Vegas stand.
In an interview with the media explaining his decision to stay on the ice, Parise made this remark regarding the start of his season, “It was going the right way, baby steps, and here we are right now,” Parise said. “That’s OK. I’ll be ready to go when the time is right.”
Parise’s patience was once again tested when Evason announced in May that Parise would start round one in the Stanley Cup playoffs against those same Golden Knights as a healthy scratch.
Zach Parise remained ready
In the Wild’s game 2 of the series, forward Marcus Johansson suffered a broken arm and a replacement was needed for game three.
Once again a “Parise watch” ensued as speculation surrounding whether Parise could make his series debut heated up as Evason stated the Wild had a couple replacement options that would be “gametime decisions” for them.
As the lights dimmed in Saint Paul for the first home playoff game since 2018, Zach Parise could be seen skating.
His time had come.
While a fresh legs Parise returned to a semblance of his game, the most notable play involving him in the Wild’s 4–0 loss was the high stick he took to the mouth that led to an abysmal Wild powerplay.
Talking postgame with a bruised lip, a frustrated Parise again reiterated his focus on helping the Wild win despite the background noise he’d been caught up in recently. Parise said, “The last thing I want to do is be a distraction. We will do what we can do to win Game 5 and give ourselves
With the Wild’s season on the line, Parise showed up ready as ever and certainly delivered.
The only distraction Parise engaged in was at the expense of the Vegas Golden Knight’s hopes to end the series at home in Vegas in game 5, which is something the Golden Knights have never managed to do at home.
In period one of game 5, Vegas struck first but it took less than a minute for Wild star rookie Kirill Kaprizov to tie the game up in his first ever NHL postseason goal.
With 8:01 left in the first period, the embattled Zach Parise put the Wild back on top in what would help ensure the Wild force a game 6.
Defenseman Jonas Brodin shot the puck right at the net hitting off Parise’s stick. Parise regathered the puck and went back to the net to bank the shot in.
It was vintage Parise.
Parise, no stranger to celebrations, was as pumped as he could be as his goal jumped him up the postseason career leaderboard as he now had 15 career playoff goals and 35 career playoff points.
More importantly, Parise erupted out of Evason’s doghouse to score his first goal since April 17 that would keep his hometown team alive for another day.
Parise’s emotion after Nico Sturm scored the game sealing empty netter showed just how important that win was to him and the Wild.
So no, Zach. You haven’t been a distraction to the team.
We do hope you continue to distract Marc-Andre Fleury some more tonight however.
Something tells me win or lose, Parise will be ready.