By PAUL HANNAN
Like many hockey fans, I was saddened to hear about J.P.Parise’s death. I enjoyed watching him play for the North Stars and admired his skill and tenacity as a player. When you spoke and wrote about his tour to Vietnam, it brought back many memories to me.
In 1972, I was 19 years old and in Vietnam. J.P. came to the base where I was stationed at the time.
I was thrilled to talk with him. I told him I grew up in Bloomington, played hockey at Kennedy High School, and worked at the Met Center where I had the opportunity to watch him play many times.
At the end of his visit, J.P. asked if there was anyone he could call when he got back to Minnesota. I gave him my mom’s name and phone number. He said he would call, tell her that he had visited with men, and that I was OK.
When I returned home, she told me that J.P. Parise had called her to say that her boy was fine. My mom was a big sports fan, the Twins her favorite team, but J.P. was by far her favorite player because of that call.
Fast forward about 20 years, my son was playing in the same youth hockey tournament that Zach Parise’s team was playing.
J.P. was talking with a mutual friend and I had the opportunity to speak with him. As I began telling him the story, he stopped me and said, ''I called your mom when I got back from the tour. She was so excited and grateful. How is she?''
I was surprised and admired him even more. I continued to see him from time to time at tournaments and he would ask me about my mom.
Through the rest of her life, J.P.’s name and his phone call came up quite often when we talked about sports. She died last year still a big J.P. Parise fan.
It isn't often that fans can have personal contact with the people they watch and admire. Although we were not friends by the literal definition, I did feel a connection with J.P. Parise. I will always remember him as a kind and caring person.