When J.P. Parise played for the Minnesota North Stars, hockey teams rarely flew on chartered jets immediately after road games. They would play, shower, dress and hit the town.
“We stayed at the Holiday Inns, and Howard Johnsons,” Tom Reid said. “The nice thing about our era was that when games were over we usually stayed in the city. So we’re in Montreal, New York, Boston, and we were usually able to find some of the libraries and make our presence felt.”
Parise, the father of Wild star Zach Parise, died after a battle with lung cancer Wednesday night. He was 73. Reid, his old North Stars teammate and a current Wild radio announcer, will deliver J.P.’s eulogy. Hockey fans who still mourn the loss of the North Stars will toast Parise’s memory in liquid libraries across Minnesota.
“We made sure we had fun,” Reid said. “On and off the ice.”
At Tom Reid’s Hockey City Pub hangs a picture of J.P. confronting an official during the Summit Series in 1972, when Canada’s best players faced the Russians. In the eighth and deciding game, Parise was called for a penalty and reacted by storming across the ice, raising his stick like a hatchet.
Canada came back to win.
“I don’t think much was called against Canada after that,” Reid said.
Parise led a cinematic life, especially if your idea of a good movie is “Slap Shot.”
One late night in Philadelphia, he got arrested when a teammate got into a fistfight in a Denny’s. One late night in Pittsburgh, he locked himself out of his hotel room, while naked.
In 2012, the North Stars held a reunion, and J.P. met me for lunch to talk about the old days. He was living in Zach’s house. He pointed to the parking lot at a late-model Cadillac and said, proudly, “Zach gave me that car. That’s the kind of a kid he is.”
J.P. grew up in Smooth Rock Falls, Ontario, a physical player who scored goals almost through force of will. He recalled three moments of good fortune that led to him spending most of his life in Minnesota.
At 16, he was playing for a men’s team in Ontario when an opponent smashed his head with a stick during a playoff series. Because the next game would decide the series, Parise’s coach begged him not to retaliate. “We won 6-5,” Parise said. “I had four goals and two assists. There was a Boston scout in the stands. If I had gone after that guy, I don’t know what would have happened.”
Drafted by the Oakland Seals, Parise argued with a coach and was traded to Rochester, an affiliate of Toronto which later traded him to the North Stars.
Once when the North Stars were in Boston, Parise joined a teammate at a restaurant. The guy was sitting with two sisters. One of the sisters had won a trip with the team by becoming the North Stars’ 2 millionth fan. Four years later J.P. and Donna were married.
“Yeah,” Parise said in 2012. “I’m a pretty lucky guy.”
Parise would become a two-time NHL All-Star. He would become an assistant coach with the North Stars. He would become the hockey director at Shattuck-St. Mary’s, where Zach played.
“He was really a great teammate,” Reid said. “It was so fitting, to me, that he was able to come back to Minnesota and have his son come back here.
“When he talked about Jordy or Zach, it was always the same. He taught them to be successful. J.P. was a success on the ice, and off the ice.”
Thursday night, Wild players wore J.P.’s (and Zach’s) No. 11 on a decal on their helmets. Before the game, the team played a video paying tribute to J.P. on the scoreboard.
“I’m getting to that age where you seem to lose a lot of people you care about,” Reid said. “Today, I’m glad J.P. and I had so much time together.”