Sure, J.P. Parise is happy his son chose the Wild. But that it was Zach's decision gave dad the most pride.
Zach Parise went to his parents' home in Prior Lake on Wednesday morning to pick up his puppy, a little pug named Boca.
J.P. and Donna Parise watched Boca while Zach traveled to Toronto this week to discuss his free-agency options with his agents. Zach told his parents early Wednesday that his signing with the hometown Wild was a "strong possibility."
"I've been in hockey so long that I know until things are signed, it's never a done deal," J.P. said.
Confirmation came a few hours later, causing the Parises' home phone to go berserk, 30 calls in the first hour from elated relatives and friends. Their son signed a 13-year, $98 million contract, a landmark decision that brought the family's hockey ties to the Twin Cities full circle.
"I'm a father, and I'm just happy for my son," J.P. said.
J.P. played nine seasons for the Minnesota North Stars and became a two-time All-Star. He later served as an assistant coach for the North Stars and director of hockey at Shattuck- St. Mary's in Faribault.
Zach was born here, raised here and makes his offseason home in Orono. He will wear the same jersey number -- 11 -- that his dad wore as a member of the North Stars.
Zach's bloodlines, talent and hometown ties left Wild fans hyperventilating with excitement and anticipation. J.P. said he tried to remain a neutral party throughout the process because he understood Zach's loyalty to the New Jersey Devils.
"Of course we're happy, but it's not about me or his mother," he said. "It's about him getting himself set for life and settling down in Minnesota. He's the one who made the decision. He's really excited about the decision and, for me, that's what it's about. To watch my son be happy. That's a fatherly feeling."
J.P. coached his son for three years in youth hockey and ran Shattuck's program when his son was developing into a star. But J.P. always preferred to stay in the background, mindful not to pressure his son.
He said he took a similar approach in his son's free-agency frenzy. His only advice to Zach, he said, was to consider the "big picture" in evaluating potential teams. The Wild sold Parise on becoming an integral part of a team that sees a bright future with its nucleus of young, talented players.
"Obviously this is a great city, but the big thing is to look at the big picture, the future of the Wild," J.P. said. "It's not necessarily about tomorrow. You can stay here a long time. He made a great analysis of the team. And of course with Ryan Suter coming, that really helped the decision. The analysis of the future of the Wild made it very attractive."
The money isn't bad either, of course. J.P. marveled at a contract that contains that many zeros.
"Those numbers are beyond me," he said.
Those numbers also come with extra pressure attached to them. Parise's arrival and massive contract create heightened expectations for him and a team that hasn't tasted the postseason since 2008. That prompted his father to recite a favorite Herb Brooks quote.
"His saying was, 'Pressure is caused by lack of preparation,' " J.P. said. "Zach always puts pressure on himself to be the leader on the team. Nothing changes. His pressure is to go out and try his best. That's been his philosophy all along."
That philosophy resulted in a big payday and a chance to come home and play in front of his family and friends. Not a bad deal at all.
Chip Scoggins • firstname.lastname@example.org
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