Monday, October 23, 2017
Minnesota Wild forward Zach Parise wears his father's gloves and helmet during warmups prior to the clubs's 5-3 over Carolina Tuesday night at the Xcel Energy Center. Zach's  late father, J.P., was a member of the North Stars. (Credit: NHL.com)

Light the Lamp

Parise’s salute to late father gives you all the feels

It’s hard to not enter the Xcel Energy Center for a Minnesota Wild game and not see Zach Parise jerseys. All sizes are represented, from a kid’s small to an adult extra-large. It’s also hard to disagree that he may be the face of the Wild since signing with his hometown team in 2012.

On Tuesday’s night, Parise honored his late father, J.P., who was a member of the Minnesota North Stars, in quite possibly the only way it should happen.

In the 50th anniversary of the NHL arriving to the Twin Cities, the Wild paid homage to the North Stars by wearing a practice jersey that sported the retro colorway.

However, what made me enjoy the moment just a little bit more, was that Parise, who dons the same number has his father (11), was wearing J.P.’s gloves and helmet from his time with the North Stars.

In a quote fired out by the Wild’s Twitter account, Parise noted that it was a great moment. Well, thanks to his mother.  

“I was happy my mom was able to dig it out of one of his old bags, and I think the guys got a pretty good laugh out of it. It was special for me, and I know for my mom it was too, and my brother. It was cool to wear his gloves, and his helmet. It was neat for me.”

Now, anyone who has competed in sports can instantly relate to this. Not saying that I was full flood gates, but there was definitely onions being cut in the room during the pre-game warm-ups.

How can you not get emotional with that?

The prodigal son of Wild hockey pays tribute to his late father, who was a great player during his time on the ice.

When I watched it, I couldn’t help but reminisce of some of the memories that I’ve had with my father. For those who are reading my column for the first time, my father was in the United States Air Force. So, every moment that I was able to spend with him was a blessing.

I only hope that when its my time to have these memories with kids of my own, that my father will still be around to walk me through it. 

In fact, some of my greatest sports memories have my father included in them. I mean, the list could go on and on.

From being a kid who rode his bike a mile to the fire department just to have a few extra hours of batting practice in the summer to traveling to Washington to compete in the Comcast Sports EDGE football combine after recently being named one of Montana’s top juniors in the sport. Although, one memory will be one that I hope to never forget.

As a senior at Great Falls High School in Montana, I found myself in the arms of my dad like I was just a little kid all over again. Back home, our city has two high schools and ironically enough, are divided by the Missouri River that splits through the city.

Our rivalry game was never one to be missed during my time as a Bison. In three years, we were able to win 14-7, 13-9 and 14-7, becoming the first team in school history to win three-straight.

While the game my senior year is arguably one of the best I’ve ever played in, I’ll skip right to the climax. After a successful two-point conversion with 45 seconds left, we led 36-35. Now, I’ve had a relatively quiet night. CMR, our rival high school, was doing a great job in really connecting on its double-teams and chips with the tight end.

However, in that final drive, by some miracle I was able to have what I believe is my greatest string of snaps in my career, registering two hurries and the game-ending sack, which was my second of that drive. The win cemented my senior class in history. The first Great Falls High football  team to give Montana legend Jack Johnson four-straight losses from the same team.

For a moment I blacked out.

I honestly don’t remember how I made it to the sideline, but the next thing I know, I’m screaming with the tears of joy smearing my eye-black, which I wore as homage to my favorite player John Randle and my eyes deadlocked on my dad. Who, surprisingly was running down the long, vertical steps and actually hopped the guard rail onto the field.

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To this day, I’m amazed by two things in those final moments. The first is that I was actually able to point my parents out of a crowd of nearly 5,000 people and that my dad wasn’t removed from the stadium.

I mean, the man hopped the guard rails onto a playing surface with 19 seconds left in the game. We didn’t even take the final snap of the game yet. Talk about poor stadium security.

The tradition of being able to find my dad in the crowd carried over to my time as a Beaver at Minot State. In fact, here’s cool little story for you all. Before every game, I would write “TONE FD” on my right wrist. No one was able to see it, but I knew it was there. That way, when the national anthem was played, not only would I be able to pay homage to a country that has given me everything, but would be able to give a salute to my pops in the same action.

It may be cheesy, but that’s really the only way I could think about saying thanks.

I’ve had a great deal of memories from my sports career but, that Halloween night will be my favorite memory of them all.

It’s amazing how something as intriguing as Zach honor his father the way he did Tuesday night makes you dig into the vault to relive some of the cherished memories you have with your father. 

 

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