All Zach Parise wants is another chance, another opportunity at an Olympic gold medal.
Although he was place on the IR on Saturday with a bruised foot, the Minneapolis native is expected to get another shot at Olympic gold come February’s Winter Games in Sochi, Russia. The U.S. men’s and women’s Olympic teams will be named Wednesday at the Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic.
Parise was ever-so-close to gold four years ago in Vancouver, but it just slipped out of his reach. The Minnesota Wild forward, an assistant captain on the 2010 U.S. men’s Olympic ice hockey team, nearly helped the Americans win their first Olympic ice hockey gold medal since the legendary 1980 Miracle on Ice team when he scored the game-tying goal with 24 seconds left in the gold-medal game.
It was uplifting, it was exhilarating, it was historic.
But it was all for naught when Sidney Crosby gave Canada its eighth gold medal, and second in three Olympic games, by scoring the game-winning goal 7:40 into overtime.
No doubt Parise is proud of his Olympic moment, forever etched in history, but it’s a bittersweet feeling.
“[The game-tying goal] would’ve meant more if we would’ve won it, but at the time it was awesome,” Parise said. “You just hope you get that chance again to be in the same situation. There’s so many good teams, you could make it all the way to the gold medal just as easily as you could lose in the first round of the qualifying.”
The Team USA brain trust, consisting of general manager David Poile (Nashville Predators), and coach Dan Bylsma (Pittsburgh Penguins), in addition to associate general manager Ray Shero (Pittsburgh), and consultant Brian Burke (Calgary Flames), hasn’t announced any roster decisions yet. However, Parise expects this year’s squad to be similar to the 2010 team, with gritty, defensive-minded players, who play with speed.
“That’s the identity we established as a team … a hard-working, honest, two-way team that is hard to play against,” Parise said. “We really embraced the roles we had, and I think that’s what made us a good team, so I think you’re going to have the same type of team we had in Vancouver.”
Team USA will count on Parise to lead the way. The Wild assistant captain is part of a five-player leadership group, joining Wild teammate Ryan Suter, Los Angeles Kings forward Dustin Brown, St. Louis Blues forward David Backes and New York Rangers forward Ryan Callahan. The group, in addition to Chicago’s Patrick Kane and Toronto’s Phil Kessel, is considered among the next great American hockey leaders, joining the likes of past U.S. Olympic stars such as Mike Modano, Brett Hull, and Chris Chelios.
“I guess you could call it the passing of the torch,” Parise said. “For us to be part of that group, I know how much I respected those players when I was younger, so if we get looked at the same way, that’s pretty humbling.”
Several of the current players, including Suter, teamed with Parise to help the U.S. capture gold during the 2002 World U18 Championship and the 2004 World Junior Championship.
“I’ve been fortunate to play on good teams, and I’ve had some great experiences,” Parise said. “We played quite a bit on different international teams, especially when we were younger, and now all of the sudden 10 years later, we’re still part of this group.”
Parise has battled a nagging foot injury since late November, causing him to miss some games before finally being added to the IR, but the 29-year-old still anticipates his second Olympic appearance.
“It’s really special,” Parise said last week. “It’s once every four years, and who knows, we might not get a chance to do it again. This could be the last time, so I guess it’s something you look back on once you’re done playing, and think that it’s pretty special to be part of.”
And regardless of the outcome, Parise realizes the 2010 team was a special group too. A gritty, underdog group that reached the precipice of history, competing in arguably one of the greatest hockey games ever played.
“It was an awesome experience for all of us, despite how it ended,” Parise said. “Even playing in that game … I think it’s something that a lot of will never forget.”
Parise hopes 2014 will be even more memorable, capped with a gold medal.
Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc.