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Captain Zach

by Eric Marin / New Jersey Devils
Parise was named Devils captain on Wednesday. (Getty/NHL Images)

Over the past 30 years, the Devils’ captaincy has belonged to some of the game’s greats. On Wednesday, Zach Parise was selected to follow in their footsteps.

Parise has been officially named the club’s new captain. No. 9 becomes the ninth man to wear the “C” in New Jersey, with Patrik Elias and Ilya Kovalchuk chosen as alternates.

“I found out before practice,” Parise said. “I had a meeting and found out then. I was surprised because I didn’t know it was coming. No one gave me a head’s up before the meeting, so I was pretty surprised when Pete [Coach DeBoer] said it.”

Parise's pedigree makes him the perfect choice. He was an alternate captain under Jacques Lemaire in 2009-10 and has won the team's MVP award twice. He’s the only Devil to have topped 30 goals in four straight seasons.

All of that made him a top candidate, but DeBoer said that a lot went into the final decision.

“When you look at Zach as a coach, this guy plays the right way, he prepares the right way,” DeBoer explained. “He handles himself the right way. There’s really not a lot of flaws in his character or in how he plays the game. I’ve always been a believer that your best players, if you’re going to win, have to be your most honest players and people. I think he fits that category.”

Parise had a hard time remembering the last time he captained a team, figuring it must have been back when he played Squirt hockey. He couldn’t recall making any fiery speeches to his team as an 8-year-old, and doesn’t expect to change that approach.

He also has a clear idea of what it means to be captain.

“I think playing the game the right way and leading by example,” he said. “It’s not necessarily always vocal. If you feel things need to be said, then there’s a time and a place for that. It’s easy to lead and it’s easy to be a captain when you’re winning and things are good, when everyone’s having a good time. I think it’s important, when things aren’t great, to maintain that level and be a leader in that way, not let your game change and still lead by example on the ice.”

Parise, 27, has observed some of the best, including Scott Stevens and Scott Niedermayer. On the ice, Parise has skated alongside former captains Elias and Jamie Langenbrunner.

“They were good in the room,” Parise said. “They were liked by all the guys. They always did the right thing. They stood up for teammates. They played hard on the ice and they were good with young players. They were good with the young guys on the team, which I think is really important, too. I remember when I first came here, when I first signed, Scotty [Stevens] wasn’t playing. He had me over for dinner at his house and we were skating together all the time. Things like that are things that I learned from being here, how to treat the young players. I’ve been around some pretty good leaders and learned from them.”

Martin Brodeur was excited to see the Devils’ next generation recognized with an official leadership role.

“For where he’s at in his career, it’s good,” Brodeur said. “I think it’s going to bring him to another level. That’s what we need from him.”

The presence of other strong leaders in the dressing room gives Parise a solid support system should he need it. But Parise’s own experiences have prepped him well.

“He’s been playing with Team USA [at the Olympics], at the All-Star Game, so he’s been dealing with that kind of limelight a little bit,” Brodeur said. “Being the face of the franchise now in New Jersey, you have to do certain things that, when you were a rookie, you really didn’t have to. You would just kind of go with the flow. But now, I think, he’s a little bit more responsible to represent this organization and I think all that prepares somebody to take that role of leader for a hockey team.” 

Parise said the captaincy won't cause him to change anything about himself or how he plays the game. His approach on and off the ice is what has gotten him this far. The only difference? That the C will be on the front of his jersey Saturday when the Devils host Philadelphia to open the regular season.

“You’ve got, with Kovy and Patty, guys that have experience being captains before in this League,” Parise said. “You’re going to rely on them for a lot of things to get a lot of help from them, but I’m excited for it – it’s a big honor. Nothing’s going to change; everything will be the same. My goals, personally, are just to keep doing the same thing and more so, lead by example and help get this thing going in the right direction, which I think we are.”

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