The North Stars were entering their fourth season in the fall of 1970 when Lou Nanne, Jean-Paul Parise, Tom Reid and Murray (Muzz) Oliver were united on the roster for the first time. Oliver was the last to arrive for that season, and he fit easily with a close-knit group of players.
“We weren’t making any real money,” Reid said. “It was a big deal when you could rent your own apartment. When I first got here, I was rooming with Bob McCord.
“The next season [1969-70], I was sharing an apartment with Charlie Burns. And then halfway through the season, Wren Blair stepped down and named Charlie the player-coach.
“I said, ‘Charlie, I can’t share an apartment with you anymore.’ And he said, ‘Why not?’ ”
Yeah, that was a tight group, when the new coach figured it wasn’t a problem if one of his defensemen was also a roommate.
“We lived right across Cedar Avenue from Met Center,” Reid said “One morning, there was a team meeting scheduled for 10 o’clock, and when I woke up it was 9:48. I was one of the young guys and started racing to get out of there.
“I was getting ready to leave, heard something in Charlie’s room, looked in there, and Charlie, my coach, still was sleeping. I yelled at him, got in the car and arrived in the locker room at 10:01.
“The veteran players all started shouting about me being ‘late’ — by a minute. And Charlie fined me 25 bucks.”
So strong was their bond, Nanne, Oliver, Reid and Parise became a green-and-gold version of the Four Musketeers.
Louie was the promoter. Muzz was the wry observer. Tom was the prankster. And J.P. was the target of the pranks.
In June 1972, Nanne set up his second USO trip to Vietnam with teammates, and this time took along Oliver, Reid and Parise.
The Viet Cong and North Vietnamese had started the “Easter Offensive” on March 30. Two weeks later, the United States had resumed bombing Hanoi and Haiphong in the north.
“They told us ‘things are kind of hot right now’ when we got there,” Reid said.
The four North Stars were in Vietnam for 17 days. They made several visits to military hospitals. They went to Da Nang on the coast, and then traveled to Ca Mau near Vietnam’s southern tip.
That’s where things got very interesting for Parise.
“J.P. grew up in Smooth Rock Falls, a little place in the north of Ontario, but he had a big-city attitude when it came to critters,” Reid said. “If we ever saw a mouse, dead or alive, at Met Center, there was a 100 percent chance that it was going to wind up in J.P.’s locker.
“There was one night in Ca Mau where they had us sleeping in a hut that had four cots with beds of straw. The straw was hanging down and they told us, ‘If you hear a sound and think something’s in there, don’t worry … it’s just the rats chewing on the straw.’
“It had been a long day and Louie, Muzz and I went to sleep. But poor J.P. heard ‘rats’ and he had no chance to close his eyes. He found a steel rod somewhere, and sat up in a chair all night, looking for rats.”
The foursome was having dinner with a commanding officer on another night. He took a call, listened for a minute, told the person on the other end to keep him informed, and hung up.
Reid said: “We asked, ‘What was that?’ and he said, ‘They overran one of our outposts, but it’s a mile from here. We’re OK.’
“A mile … and we’re OK?
“That trip was so eye-opening for what the troops mean to us. I’m still affected by that.”
Nanne and Reid will leave for a troop visit to Kuwait next weekend. First, there will be the sad duty of bidding goodbye to their favorite Frenchman at a memorial service set for next Friday. Reid will give the eulogy for Parise, who died at 73 on Wednesday night from cancer.
This came 45 days after Oliver died at 77 from a heart attack.
There are two musketeers now, but those lost travelers to Vietnam, Muzz and J.P., will be remembered on the Kuwait journey with endless tales from great friends and storytellers, Nanne and Reid.