Lou Lamoriello is the only NHL general manager who doesn’t even allow team broadcasters to fly on New Jersey’s plane, so a father-son trip during Zach Parise’s seven-year tenure with the Devils was obviously out of the question.
This season, the Wild didn’t have what has fast become an NHL tradition — the father-son trip. But when Chuck Fletcher discovered that J.P. Parise, who played 14 years in the NHL, had never experienced life on the road with his famous son, the Wild GM offered the elder Parise his own personal father-son trip.
“I said, ‘Oh yeah, I’m in,’ ” J.P. Parise said.
During the last three games of the Wild’s four-game trip to St. Louis, Phoenix, Los Angeles and Chicago, J.P. Parise traveled with the Wild. He experienced life on the charter and the team hotel. He got to do team dinners and even take part in team meetings, such as the pregame penalty-kill assembly Monday in L.A.
Parise even offered the coaches this game plan for the Kings meeting: “Get ahead, stay ahead and don’t tire.”
What did J.P. learn about life on the road these days compared to yesteryear?
“Everything’s the same as far as camaraderie and the fun. The owners just have more money,” said J.P. Parise, 72, who never got to stay at Ritz-Carltons and JW Marriotts and never got to chow down on sushi and drink glasses of wine on flights. “I’ve been treated like a king.
“I remember when we used to go to Calgary when I played with the North Stars. Cliff Fletcher, Chuck’s dad, was the [Calgary] GM and I was always so impressed with how welcoming that whole organization was, how nice they were to outsiders. Here, you can sense the same thing. It’s so inviting, and it’s not because I’m J.P. Parise or Zach’s dad. It’s just natural.”
J.P. and his wife, Donna, still pinch themselves that their boy chose to sign a 13-year deal with the Wild. They get to live near Zach and his wife, Alisha, and watch their grandchildren — twins, a boy and a girl born in January — grow.
“For me, it was his decision,” J.P. Parise said. “I had nothing to do with it. It was well thought over, in terms of having his family here but more looking at the big picture and his future. He loves Minnesota.”
The future of the Wild also appealed to Zach Parise and free-agent sidekick Ryan Suter, J.P. said
“They had some good players, then you add him and Suter, it’s even better,” J.P. said. “You know, he turned down to play with the best forwards in the world, Pittsburgh, Chicago and stuff, to come here. It’s nice to play with the best, like [Jonathan] Toews or [Sidney] Crosby.”
Asked if there are times when his son has regretted giving up that enticing opportunity, J.P. Parise said, “No, no. Hockey is a day-to-day thing. So you feel high one day, then all of the sudden you’re losing and you think, ‘I could be playing with Sidney Crosby.’
“He would never say that, but in my mind I think that as a father. But who knows, it may not be any better. Ultimately it’s about having fun here, helping kids and winning. He has certain responsibilities around here, and it’s a nice challenge for him.”
J.P. Parise got to watch his son score three goals in Phoenix and L.A. Zach Parise now has 240 goals compared to J.P.’s 238. J.P.’s proud of his son, both the player and the person.
“If you’re going to play, you have an obligation to your team to come prepared and play to the best of your ability, and you never ask him to do that because that’s just the way he is. I like that,” J.P. Parise said. “He is such a good person. He’s always doing stuff for young kids. Of course it’s important to be good at hockey, but that’s not what’s really important. He’s turned out to be a real good guy, and all the players here are kind of like that.
“Just nice people.”