For Eden Prairie’s Michael Parrish, hockey and compassionate teammates have helped him cope with the recent death of his father.
Michael Parrish took the pass between the circles and, with a quick flick of his wrist, fired the puck into the net for his first goal of the boys’ hockey state tournament.
Parrish pumped his right fist as his Eden Prairie teammates mobbed him with the kind of celebration that normally follows a goal scored. Except this one felt different. This one meant something beyond the fact that Parrish gave the Eagles a two-goal lead in the semifinals of the state tournament Friday evening.
A week earlier, those same teammates put their arms around Parrish and smothered him with love as they tried to comfort him at his father’s funeral. Ted Parrish, a father of three and husband of 30 years, lost his courageous fight Feb. 19 after being diagnosed with a brain tumor three years ago.
His son played with a heavy heart and with the support of the Eden Prairie community this week. As Michael celebrated his second-period goal in an eventual 5-4 loss to Lakeville North in two overtimes Friday, a chant erupted from the Eagles student section in the upper level of Xcel Energy Center.
“That’s for Ted!” students cheered in unison. Perfect.
“It’s been overwhelming at times the support I’ve had,” said Michael, the youngest of the three Parrish children. “Everyone has been great, the community, the parents, all my teammates and coaches. They’ve just really supported me through it and encouraged me.”
Eden Prairie coach Lee Smith received a phone call from Parrish the morning of the team’s first playoff game two weeks ago. Ted had died hours earlier. Michael and his mother, Denise, were at his bedside at the end.
Michael shared the news with Smith and said he wouldn’t be at school that day but if it was OK with his coach, he’d like to play against Armstrong that night. Michael, a senior center, made the decision to play after talking to his mother, who reminded her son that Ted loved watching him play sports.
“He said, ‘Mom, so many of my teammates give me support, I think it would be a nice distraction if I went to be with my teammates and friends,’ ” Denise said.
Parrish played that night. And he scored a goal. The crowd cheered so loud and with so much emotion after he scored that other parents texted Denise, who had the game on the radio while she made arrangements with family members at home.
“That was pretty special,” Michael said. “It was amazing.”
A week later, Parrish made another timely play to help Eden Prairie earn a trip to downtown St. Paul. The Eagles took a penalty in the second overtime of the section finals against Benilde-St. Margaret’s at Mariucci Arena.
Parrish went skates first to block a shot on the penalty kill. The puck hit his stick with such force that it shattered, but the puck ricocheted to teammate Jack Keeley, who scored the game-winner at the other end.
Parrish’s teammates once again wrapped him in their embrace.
“He’s playing on a lot of emotion,” Smith said. “Our kids are rallying around him.”
Two days after the section finals, Michael’s teammates and coaches — in hockey and baseball — attended his father’s funeral. All of his hockey teammates wore their warmup jackets.
Michael has amazed his Eden Prairie teammates with the maturity that he’s displayed through heartache. Denise believes her son’s calm, positive demeanor comes from her husband.
Ted played baseball at Richfield High and coached Michael at the youth levels. Pitching was his expertise. Parents and kids appreciated Ted’s unwavering positivity and even-keeled approach in the dugout.
Ted’s condition began to deteriorate in the fall, leaving him unable to attend Michael’s hockey games. The final months were especially difficult, but Denise said Michael maintained his positive outlook.
The last of their out-of-town guests returned home this week after Ted’s funeral. The family welcomed the state tournament as a temporary distraction from their pain.
“We’re starting to reflect a bit more so a little tougher days right now,” Denise said. “But it’s just a joy to watch Michael and he’s been doing great. We’re proud of him.”
Chip Scoggins • firstname.lastname@example.org