VIRG FOSS: By The Shores Of Gitche Gumme: J.P. Parise’s Hand Evident In UND Hockey Program

In the fall of 2002, this sports reporter, nearing the end of his daily journalism career, sat in the hockey office at the University of North Dakota.

Across from him for the interview was an incoming freshman for the Fighting Sioux, who we all knew even then was on the brink of stardom.

As the interview went on, this reporter was overwhelmed by the poise and intelligence of this young man. He was taken aback by the grounded approach to life of this teenager, by his not looking at himself as the star he was destined to be.

He looked you straight in the eyes and gave honest, insightful answers.

I walked away from that interview thinking this young man was raised right, that he was something special far beyond the hockey rink.

That young man was Zach Parise, now a captain with the Minnesota Wild, of the National Hockey League, an Olympian, and at age 30, one of the game’s best players.

That young man was the second son of former NHL player and coach J.P. Parise. The elder Parise died of lung cancer last week after a year-long battle. His son put his NHL career on ice to spent the last days of his father’s life with the Dad he loved so dearly.

I got to know J.P. Parise a bit in the time his two sons _ Jordan and Zach _ played hockey at UND. He should forever be remembered in the grateful prayers of UND hockey fans.

J.P. Parise was director of the hockey program at Shattuck-St. Mary’s School in Faribault, Minn. More than anyone else, he was responsible for building that developmental program into a national power that funneled great talent into college programs.

A dozen or so of the players from the program J.P. Parise assembled at the small school south of Minneapolis followed the lead of Zach Parise and chose UND for their college hockey.

Great players, too, young men such as Jonathan Toews, Brady Murray, Chris Porter, Ryan Duncan, Drew Stafford, Ben Blood, to name a few.

It was unthinkable in the self-proclaimed state of hockey (Minnesota) when Zach Parise gave his commitment to North Dakota coach Dean Blais in 2002.

How could a star from their state, the son of a coach from that state, who had played much of his pro hockey in that state, go elsewhere, especially arch-rival North Dakota?

A giant shock wave rolled through the hockey family of Minnesota when Zach Parise made his choice known.

Minnesota hockey legends Glen Sonmor and Lou Nanne, both with strong ties to the University of Minnesota hockey program, made a special trip to Faribault to try to talk Zach Parise out of his decision.

Didn’t matter that the visit was a violation of NCAA rules. Minnesota did not want to lose Zach Parise to North Dakota.

But you know what?

Zach Parise, as mentioned earlier, was raised right. He was a man of his word. So was J.P., who backed the decision of his son to come to North Dakota.

In the dozen years that have passed since Zach Parise chose North Dakota, his love for the program in Grand Forks has never wavered. His love of this town, of this university, of this hockey program, shines as bright as ever.

And what was always the brightest beacon when you talked to Zach Parise was his love of his parents, J.P. and Donna, and his special bond with his Dad, with hockey the glue.

Since Zach Parise shocked the hockey world by choosing North Dakota in 2002, UND has been in the national tournament every single season.

That is a remarkable run, the longest current streak of any college in the country.

Former Fighting Sioux goalie Ralph Engelstad donated and built the fantastic rink bearing his name at UND in 2001. We owe much to Ralph for establishing the foundation for this program to remain at the elite level far into the future.

When Zach Parise shook the skies by choosing UND a year later, it opened a pipeline to great talent to take the program to the level of the giants in the sport as well, bolstering Ralph Engelstad’s dream.

Zach Parise — and J.P. Parise, too — solidified the reputation of this program, which had produced NCAA titles in 1959, 1963, 1980. 1982, 1987 and 2000.

Other great players followed Zach here, from Shattuck, from elsewhere. As Zach Parise became a big name on the NHL stage, in the Olympics, he carried the North Dakota Fighting Sioux name with him, proudly, honorably.

He was a son who was taught about love, honor, integrity, by his parents, particularly by a Dad who taught him that doing the right thing for the right reason is never wrong.

J.P. Parise never played for UND, never went to college here.

But his fingerprints when it comes to hockey are all over the UND program.

I for one will never forget that.

4 thoughts on “VIRG FOSS: By The Shores Of Gitche Gumme: J.P. Parise’s Hand Evident In UND Hockey Program”

  • Therese Tiedeman January 13, 2015 at 5:51 pm

    Great hearing your voice again Virg.

  • Virg Foss January 13, 2015 at 6:44 pm

    Thanks, Therese….nice to be back writing, I’ve missed it. Enjoyed Jeff’s memories of the Parise family as well, we were both touched by the family in some way….fun being in on the ground floor of this new project.

  • Kevin January 15, 2015 at 12:04 pm

    Enjoyed the piece on J.P.

  • Jim Martin February 6, 2015 at 9:43 pm

    hey Virg great stuff as usual.
    Jennie says I may be able to sign up for your podcast somewhere.


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