Wild winger Zach Parise scrapped his normal pregame routine.
No morning skate, no team meeting, no nap.
Instead, he spent the day at the hospital for the birth of his third child before changing into a suit and departing for Xcel Energy Center for a Feb. 8 game against the Coyotes.
“I thought I was going to be way more tired, but I actually felt pretty good at night,” Parise said. “You’re still amazed at what happened in the morning and so happy about everything and that everything went well. I wasn’t too worried.”
Theodore Jean-Paul Parise, checking in at 7 pounds, 14 ounces, continued the Wild’s baby boom since September, as he was the fifth arrival. And he might not be the last before the team finishes playing. Ryan and Becky Suter’s fourth child is due in May, while Marcus Foligno and his wife, Natascia, are expecting their first child April 28.
“Hopefully between the first and second rounds,” Foligno said. “Really hoping it’ll go that way.”
With an average age of 28.3, which ranks among the oldest in the NHL, it’s no surprise that 11 Wild players — or almost half of the roster — are also known as Dad.
And it’s this responsibility away from the rink that not only puts hockey in perspective for the fathers but also enriches their journey with it, especially during a hectic playoff push like the one the Wild is experiencing.
“When you get home to them, they don’t care whether you got a shutout or let in 10,” goalie Devan Dubnyk said. “You’re the same guy to them, so you have no choice but to let it go. It’s a blessing to have that as far as hockey goes.”
Before he was a dad, Dubnyk would spend his free time after practice grabbing lunch with his wife, Jennifer, running errands or stopping for coffee.
Now as a father of three, with Dawson born Jan. 15, Dubnyk is picking up his kids from school — a change of pace he enjoys.
“It just gives you a break from the rink whether you like it or not,” Dubnyk said. “That’s what you need in a long season, as the years go by. The more you can kind of separate yourself between, the fresher you’re going to be when you get here.”
Being able to unplug mentally can be particularly helpful during a grind like the one the Wild is in. It starts a three-game road trip Monday in New York against the Islanders as the team remains in the mix for a wild-card berth in the Western Conference.
Hanging out with the family at home, though, is also a reminder of why going to work matters so much, a deeper purpose winger Jason Zucker felt even before he and his wife, Carly, welcomed Hendrix on Oct. 27 since Zucker was already a stepfather to 7-year-old Sophia.
“Just wanting to make sure you’re providing for them, especially now,” said Zucker, who’s in the midst of assembling his best season after tying his career high in goals recently. “I want to make sure I give them everything they need in life and send them to college. It’s something that gives you extra motivation to make sure you’re playing well and you’re getting better. You can have a long career.”
Foligno is a bit apprehensive about becoming a father, although he’s had experience taking care of kids from his stints as a babysitter.
“You’re responsible for someone else’s life,” Foligno said. “That freaks you out a little bit.”
But the 26-year-old is also excited, to have a family of his own and to embrace the same lift being a father has given his teammates.
“I think it’ll make the stuff at the hockey arena seem pretty easy,” he said. “If there’s problems here, there’s bigger problem in the world. I think having a baby will kind of make you realize that.”
• The Kings tweaked their blue line Tuesday by adding Dion Phaneuf in a trade with the Senators that also sent center Nate Thompson to Los Angeles in exchange for forwards Marian Gaborik and Nick Shore. This move screams of a team trying to improve its playoff chances; the third seed in the Pacific Division is within the Kings’ reach. Although the team boasts the second-best goals-against average in the league, Los Angeles has looked vulnerable of late. Maybe this acquisition helps the Kings recalibrate.
• NHL in the northwest is becoming more of a possibility. A group led by billionaire David Bonderman and Hollywood producer Jerry Bruckheimer filed an application for an expansion team for Seattle on Tuesday, which included a $10 million application fee. Speculation about Seattle has been brewing for years, and with KeyArena set to receive a much-needed facelift, the city is looking more a like a potential home for a 32nd team. And considering how successful Vegas’ transition has been in its inaugural season, adding another team appears to make sense.
• The Coyotes remain last in the NHL, but they’ve turned in some impressive victories of late — over the Wild, Blues and Sharks. Stringing together wins at this point won’t repair the early-season hole the team plummeted into when it tied the worst 11-game start in league history. But the team is treating the rest of the season like its playoffs. And with parity flipping bottom-feeders into contender from season to season, that momentum could be key. “We have to create pressure for these young guys,” coach Rick Tocchet said. “These type of games are huge for us.”
WILD'S WEEK AHEAD
Monday: Noon at New York, FSN
Thursday: 6 p.m. at New Jersey, FSN
Friday: 6 p.m. at N.Y. Rangers, FSN+
Sunday: 7 p.m. vs. San Jose, FSN
Player to watch: Mathew Barzal, Islanders
The center is enjoying an impressive start to his NHL career, as he paces all rookies in points (62) amid three five-point efforts — the first rookie in 100 years to accomplish the feat.
“It’s the State of Hockey for a reason.”
Defenseman Nick Seeler, who became the 51st Minnesotan to play in the NHL this season when he made his debut Tuesday against the Rangers.