It was in 2012 that Zach Parise truly captured the attention of the nation. Before the free agent frenzy that captivated the hockey world, it was Parise’s leadership and play that drove up his price, and hastened his departure from New Jersey.
While his numbers haven’t reached the zenith of his production from the 2008-2009 season, it’s Parise’s leadership that creates his value. Statistics wise, however, Parise has topped 20 goals in three of his last four seasons.
As we begin our look at the candidates for the role of Captain America, we start with the guy who provided one of the most memorable goals in recent USA Hockey history, and whose leadership is unparalleled. He also happened to be Team USA’s Captain in Sochi.
Reason #1: He bleeds Red, White, and Blue
Parise’s tying goal during the 2010 Gold Medal game against Canada during the Vancouver Olympics provided a glimpse into what made him tick. The jubilation, and the nose for the net. The never-say-die drive that netted a tying goal and new life for a team that was less than a minute away from losing a 2-1 game to a superior team on visiting ice.
Though they lost the game 3-2 in overtime, this was the moment that Parise became my favorite US hockey player of this generation. If you watch his body language all the way back to the bench, celebrating that goal–it gives you goosebumps. It’s one of those sports moments where you’re damn proud to be an American. You feel that same excitement, that youthful Patriotic zeal when he delivered the goal.
Even commentator (and fellow American) Ed Olczyk saw it:
“He almost jumps over the glass here at Hockey Canada Place.”
I know exuberance isn’t the only reason to sew the C on the sweater. And I know if he played in a Stanley Cup Final and scored a similar high stakes goal, it would be a close second in reaction. That’s the guy you want as your captain.
Reason #2: He’s born to lead….
Though he wears the A in Minnesota, he’s still leading like he has the C. From an NHL.com article last year:
“It’d be unfair to expect all of them to come in and have great seasons,” Parise said. “Regardless of how last year went, it’s not an easy league. Things snowball. But everyone will get through it and everyone will get better.”
That belief is not just lip service from Parise. It’s a consistent message he has tried to share with all of his younger teammates. It’s a message he remembers hearing from veterans like Jamie Langenbrunnerand John Madden when he was a young player in New Jersey.
“It’s a big reason why he’s such a great leader on this team, and has been on every team he’s been on,” Zucker said. “It’s no secret as to why he was a captain for Team USA [in the 2014 Sochi Olympics]. It’s a great thing to watch and really learn from.”
Reason #3: ..And He’s Already Been the Captain
When Parise was named the US captain back in 2014, USA Today’s Kevin Allen quoted then Team USA head coach Dan Bylsma:
“When it comes to a captaincy, you are looking for people who embody who you are and how you want to play,” Bylsma said. “I can’t think of a better group or better captain than Zach Parise to lead our team.”
Leading the article was how Parise refined his leadership skills playing alongside former teammate and US Captain Jamie Langenbrunner.
There are a number of candidates that could wear the C for the United States and we will continue to profile each one of them. But it would be remiss to think that anyone not named Parise would be the captain when the United States takes the ice next September.