by Alli Baker
When people think of the stars of the National Hockey League, names like Sidney Crosby and Patrick Kane come to mind. Nobody ever says “Zach Parise is one of the greatest players in the league”. That’s because Parise is one of the most underrated players in the NHL. Parise may not be a 40-goal scorer or have ridiculously impressive numbers like some of the other guys, but he brings much more to the table than just the ability to score. Parise is a highly intelligent player with the ability to protect the puck and get it in and to the net, regardless of the circumstances. Team USA knows just how much of an impact a player like Parise can have. For the past two years with Minnesota Wild, Parise has demonstrated that he can be a game-changer, and he looks to do the same at this year’s Winter Olympic Games in Sochi, Russia.
Parise, the recently selected captain of Team USA has shown in the past that he’s very capable of performing on the international level. At the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver, Parise led Team USA with four goals, including a memorable goal scored with 24 seconds left in regulation that sent the gold medal game into overtime with Team Canada. With international exposure, fans finally realized what an outstanding he player he was. “He’s one of the best forwards in the league … He’s one of the best players in the NHL,” teammate and fellow Team USA member Ryan Suter said about Parise.2
His Minnesota Wild teammates know better than anyone about Parise’s talents. In the second year of a 13-year contract with the Wild, Parise made an instant impact with his new team last season and continues to do this year. Parise quickly became a leader on the team and entered the Olympic break as the second leading scorer on the squad with 19 goals and 36 points3. He recently returned from a broken left foot that kept him out for 14 games and immediately took charge… Without Parise in the lineup, the Wild lost their first four games, but he returned to the lineup with a goal and two assists to take down the conference leading Anaheim Ducks. Wild coach Mike Yeo had this to say, “We’ve seen it right from the first game that he’s been back with us, how many times we get the puck in the offensive zone, how many turnovers he creates, how much he helps us just to gain zone time in the offensive zone. He’s created chances in every game. He hounds, pressures, and creates turnovers. 2
Whether he’s playing for Team USA or for the Minnesota Wild, Parise makes his presence known wherever he plays. Before becoming an NHL star, Parise spent four years at Shattuck-St.Mary’s, under the watchful eye of his father and hockey legend, J.P. Parise. He then stood out at the University of North Dakota, where he was nominated for the Hobey Baker Award, was named an All-American, and led all rookies in points during the 2002-03 season. Before going pro, Parise also led Team USA to their first-ever gold medal over Canada in the 2004 World Junior Championships. Parise was named the Most Valuable Player of the tournament for his performance. 1
Zach Parise has proven he’s capable of winning gold. Now, as captain of Team USA, Parise hopes to lead his fellow Americans to victory at the 2014 Sochi Olympics. Regardless of whether Team USA wins gold or not, Captain America, Zach Parise, is bound to make an impact on the outcome.
1 – NBC Olympics
2 – The Star Tribune
3 – ESPN.com