Parise hopes to earn spot on U.S. Olympic roster

Sunday, 02.15.2009 / 11:03 AM ET / Features
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Parise hopes to earn spot on U.S. Olympic roster
The Devils star forward would love to represent the United States at the 2010 Olympics.
Zach Parise leads all U.S.-born NHLers in scoring entering Sunday's action.

Long before New Jersey Devils forward Zach Parise began setting the stage for what is becoming quite an NHL career, he was learning to deal with heartache and despair.

Would he ever crack a roster spot in organized hockey was the dominant question at the start Parise's career.

"My brother (Jordan) started out as a forward for the first two years that we were playing organized hockey and he was making the team as a forward and I was getting cut, so it was frustrating," Parise said.

Funny what a little confidence and perseverance can do for the psyche.

Watch Zach Parise highlights
Today, not only is Zach considered one of the NHL's elite forwards, but he's out to prove he's among the top 23 American players in the game. The 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver are a year away, and for the Minnesota native, it's the opportunity of a lifetime.

"I think about earning a roster spot on the USA National Team a lot," Parise said. "I always wanted to play in the Olympics and always wanted to represent my country. I've thought about it more after our road trip to Vancouver in January. You can already feel the excitement there and the buildings are going up in anticipation of the large crowds. I just hope I'm a part of it. I really think the USA will have a good team this year."

Internationally, Parise played for the United States in the 2003 and '04 World Junior Championships and was named tournament MVP in 2004 when the Americans earned a gold medal. Last year, he posted 5 goals and 8 points for the United States at the World Championship in Halifax.

Parise was also a member of the United States Development Program in 2001-02.

Parise's father, J.P., spent 14 seasons in the NHL with Boston, Toronto, Minnesota, the Islanders and Cleveland and also represented Canada at the 1972 Summit Series against the USSR.

One thing's for sure, the family patriarch made a lasting impression on both Zach and Jordan.

"I grew up in that hockey-family atmosphere, where there were pictures all around from the North Stars to Team Canada," said Parise. "Dad taught me a lot about the game and what it takes to get to this level and there's no question he's been the biggest influence on me."

Growing up in Bloomington, Parise and his brother always had something to do.

"We played on outdoor rinks all the time," Parise said. "The closest thing you can get to the excitement and fun in playing in Canada is playing in Minnesota. The passion the players and fans have for the game there is outstanding. The Minnesota high school tournament is always held in front of 20,000 people at Xcel Energy Center.

"It was a tragedy when the North Stars left but it was great when they brought in another team there. You grow up playing on the outdoor rinks and, because of that, grow up loving the game."

Parise played three seasons of varsity hockey at Shattuck-St. Mary's in Minnesota before spending two seasons at the University of North Dakota, along with his brother Jordan, where he totaled 49 goals and 116 points in 76 career games. He was New Jersey's first-round choice (No. 17) in the 2003 Entry Draft.

At every level he's played, Parise has always leaned on the experiences and wisdom of his father.

"I remember he would never really talk hockey to us after a game unless we wanted to talk and he's still the same way," Parise said. "In his eyes, when a game is over, it's over. We never really got too high after a win or too low after a loss."

He's currently fifth in the NHL with a career-high 67 points, including 34 goals in 55 games with the Devils and seems to have found incredible chemistry with linemates Jamie Langenbrunner and Travis Zajac.

"Travis is having a breakout year as well and Jamie has been such a leader," Parise said. "We're getting more scoring chances and we're all feeding off each other, which really makes the game so much easier. Now that I'm in my fourth season, I'm so much more comfortable with my role; I'm able to try things and make plays that I probably wouldn't have done a few years ago."

You have to wonder if Parise is actually trying something new these days. The 5-foot-11, 190-pound wing is on the verge of becoming the first player in franchise history to score 50 goals in a season.

"Any player in the League would like 50," Parise said. "But I don't keep thinking every day that I have to score in order to reach 50 goals. You don't want to get caught up in that. There's a reason the team is where it is right now and I have no intention of changing anything in my game; I'll keep playing the way I've been."

Quite frankly, that should be good enough.

Author: Mike G. Morreale | NHL.com Staff Writer




1 p - NYR 82 53 22 7 252 192 113
2 y - MTL 82 50 22 10 221 189 110
3 x - TBL 82 50 24 8 262 211 108
4 x - WSH 82 45 26 11 242 203 101
5 x - NYI 82 47 28 7 252 230 101
6 x - DET 82 43 25 14 235 221 100
7 x - OTT 82 43 26 13 238 215 99
8 x - PIT 82 43 27 12 221 210 98
9 BOS 82 41 27 14 213 211 96
10 FLA 82 38 29 15 206 223 91
11 CBJ 82 42 35 5 236 250 89
12 PHI 82 33 31 18 215 234 84
13 NJD 82 32 36 14 181 216 78
14 CAR 82 30 41 11 188 226 71
15 TOR 82 30 44 8 211 262 68
16 BUF 82 23 51 8 161 274 54


A. Henrique 75 16 27 -6 43
M. Cammalleri 68 27 15 2 42
P. Elias 69 13 21 -20 34
S. Gomez 58 7 27 -10 34
S. Bernier 67 16 16 2 32
T. Zajac 74 11 14 -3 25
A. Larsson 64 3 21 2 24
A. Greene 82 3 19 1 22
E. Gelinas 61 6 13 -2 19
M. Ryder 47 6 13 -1 19
C. Schneider 26 31 9 .925 2.26
K. Kinkaid 6 5 4 .915 2.59