After nine years in the NHL, Bloomington's Mark Parrish finally feels he is on a team that can make a run in the playoffs. And his adjustment after the first two months has helped make it happen.
ANAHEIM, CALIF. - Bloomington native Mark Parrish remembers the first moment he thought, "If I ever get a chance to come back to Minnesota and play ..."
It was April 2003, and Parrish and his Islanders had been eliminated in the first round by Ottawa.
"I came home and ended up going out to eat and for a few beers with some buddies," Parrish said. "The Wild were playing Colorado in Game 6 or 7, and everywhere we went, it's all people talked about. Everybody was in Wild jerseys, Wild hats. And each round it was getting crazier and crazier.
"At that point, it dawned on me. I knew right there I wanted to one day come back and play for the Wild."
Four years later, Parrish has completed his first regular season with the Wild. He ingratiated himself so well, he wore the captain's 'C' the final two-plus months of the season (the Wild was 21-5-4) and we'll find out today whether he'll keep it in the playoffs.
"I'm just excited," Parrish said. "This is the first time for me that I've ever felt I've been on a team that has a legit chance of making a run. That's pretty exciting for a guy that's been around nine years and hasn't made it past the first round in ... nine years."
It's hard to believe this is the same Parrish who barely averaged 13 minutes a game in the season's first two months and scored five goals in his first 28 games.
At that low point, Parrish realized he needed to make significant changes. As much as he tried to shield himself from being the "Minnesota boy comes home," Parrish realized he wasn't conducting himself as if he were playing in any other city.
So at the advice of his agent, Brian Lawton, Parrish talked to his friends and family and asked everybody to back off.
"Sometimes you've got to tell your family, 'It's enough. I've got a job to do and I've got to worry about one thing,'" Parrish said. "It was a little adjustment period where I had to slow it down in December and ask my mom and dad and in-laws not to come down after every game.
"I was surprised how understanding everybody was. It wasn't tough to bring up and talk about, and I don't think it's a surprise things started to turn around."
It's this type of maturity that GM Doug Risebrough loves. Parrish scored 19 goals, only the second time he didn't hit 20 in his career, but Risebrough doesn't care.
"What I wanted from him was some goals, but character, intensity and the old veteran who could deliver by moving the work ethic of our game up," Risebrough said. "Today, when our work ethic is at its best, Mark Parrish is leading that."
Risebrough loves the fact there's never a time trainer Don Fuller even contemplates sprinting onto the ice when Parrish falls. Parrish, always banged up in some area, continues to put himself in vulnerable spots and plays through pain.
"It's important for players to see a guy who physically puts his body on the line, and if he gets clipped or hurt, he doesn't just lay there," Risebrough said. "He gets up and shakes it off. That's a sign of an old pro."
Parrish, 30, was taken aback by the "old pro" line but said, "My dad [Gene] used to always give me crap when I was a kid when he'd see me down. I knew if I stayed down, I better really be hurt. If he skated over there and I wasn't really hurt, he was going to be ticked off.
"He'd say, 'Get up and shake it off.' "
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