WINNIPEG – John Curry knew Zach Parise before he was an NHL star and U.S. Olympic captain.
“We played together three years for the Minnesota Blades, plus I remember playing against him in squirts when he was with Bloomington and I was with Minnetonka,” said Curry, 30, a Shorewood native and seventh goaltender to dress for the Wild this season. “You never know for sure when you’re young, but everyone knew back then that he would be one of the best players of our age group.”
Parise laughed last year when Curry, a familiar face from his past, joined the Wild organization on a minor league deal. That contract was turned into an NHL deal in February just in case the Wild ran into injury problems. Of course, the team has with Josh Harding, Niklas Backstrom and Darcy Kuemper on the shelf.
“Twenty years ago, he was a stand-up goalie,” Parise said. “But he was good. He was really good.”
Said the 5-11 Curry, who was a huge North Stars and Jon Casey fan as a kid, “I was a weird style goalie for sure. I’ve always had probably a little different style. When I grew up, they were still teaching skate saves, so there was no butterfly theory yet.”
Curry backstopped Breck for three seasons, including to a state championship as a sophomore in 2000, but never was highly recruited. He played one year at Taft, a prep school in Connecticut, before walking on at Boston University.
By his sophomore year, he was the Terriers’ No. 1 goalie. Curry led them to a Hockey East championship his junior year and was named Hockey East Player of the Year and a Hobey Baker Award finalist his senior year.
Curry signed as a free agent with the Pittsburgh Penguins in 2007. He played four seasons for Wilkes-Barre of the AHL and made four appearances for the Penguins (2-2 with a 3.79 goals-against average).
In 2011-12, he signed in Hamburg, Germany.
“It’s been a weird couple years,” Curry said. “I had a good year in Germany, but between the lockout and just being gone for a year, I didn’t anticipate how hard it’d be to find a spot [in North America] again. It’s been a bit of a battle.”
Last year, Curry latched onto the Wild, but he spent much of the past two seasons playing for Orlando of the East Coast Hockey League.
“I enjoyed my time in Orlando, but I didn’t want to be there,” he said. “I didn’t feel like I should be there at that point of my career, but it was the reality of the situation. It was a wake-up call, but this organization has been great. They’ve supported me and believed in me. There just wasn’t room.”
In the past two years, Curry guesses he was shuttled back and forth between Orlando and the Wild’s AHL team based in Houston then Iowa 15 to 20 times. He sustained a bad injury in Houston last season, tearing his hamstring off the hip during a shootout in Charlotte. He underwent surgery, which required a six-month rehab. He also had sports hernia surgery last summer.
“But I knew I still wanted to play. I just didn’t know how my body would respond,” he said. “Luckily, the Wild gave me a job again.”
Last week in Chicago, Curry backed up for Ilya Bryzgalov, the first time he wore an NHL uniform in four years. He dressed for a third consecutive game Monday in Winnipeg, and with three games left might see his first NHL start since Jan. 11, 2010.
“This is why I came back from Germany,” Curry said. “I thought, ‘When I’m 45, 50, am I going to regret never giving myself a shot again?’ I didn’t know if this would ever happen again, so I’m real excited. But I still want to play in this league, so I’m still not totally satisfied.”