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Road to the Coliseum: PA Parenteau

by Cory Wright / New York Islanders
Not many have the passion and drive for the game of hockey like PA Parenteau. It’s no secret that he took the long way to the National Hockey League, but he’s found his stride as a New York Islander.

His father introduced him to hockey when he was four-years old in Quebec. He started playing Mite hockey, ages 3-4, like most kids and couldn’t resist going to the outdoor rinks for pond hockey.

“Every time we had a chance to skate outdoors we did,” Parenteau said. “Sometimes we botched homework to play hockey and our parents weren’t really happy about that, but that’s what I wanted to do.”

PA Parenteau #15 of the New York Islanders skates against the Washington Capitals on February 26, 2011 at Nassau Coliseum in Uniondale, New York. The Capitals defeated the Islanders 3-2. (Photo by Mike Stobe/NHLI via Getty Images)
When he wasn’t playing hockey, Parenteau was watching it. Growing up in Boucherville, PQ, a southern suburb of Montreal, he was a devout Habs fan. However, that is not the case today. Now that he is in the league, he can’t cheer for the bleu, blanc et rouge.

He admittedly wasn’t the best hockey player in his early years. “I was a middle of the pack kind of player,” Parenteau said. “But I always had pretty good hands.”

He played Double-B in pee wee, which is ages 11-12 in Quebec, but when he got to bantam, a young Parenteau was hit by adversity.

Bantam [13-14] is the age in Quebec when contact is introduced into minor hockey. It may be hard to believe it now, as he’s filled out to 6’0, 198 pounds, but Parenteau was one of the smallest players on his team.

“That was a tough transition,” Parenteau said. “It took me half a year to get used to it.”

After the initial shock, Parenteau’s progression really picked up and he jumped from Bantam CC to Bantam AA. The next year, he played Midget AAA and earned himself a spot in the QMJHL, Quebec Major Junior Hockey League.

“I was not only bigger, I just had a lot of confidence,” he said. “I was feeling pretty comfortable with the contact…I brought my game to another notch. I was the best player on my Bantam AA team and on my Midget AAA team.”

The confidence came a couple years before the size. In pee wee, he played for one of his favorite coaches, Andre Savard, brother of Hockey Hall-of-Famer Denis Savard. It was Savard who would give the young forward confidence in his game and his life.

“He played me all the time,” said a smiling Parenteau. “He was a great man and I still keep in touch with him today.”

His finest moment in minor hockey came in a tournament when he was in second-year bantam, playing for the Boucherville Grand-Ducs, his AA team. Staging a tournament in his hometown, Parenteau lived out every kid’s dream.

“I scored the winning goal in overtime,” he said. “That was one of the biggest moments of my minor hockey career. All of my friends were there, my family, and we won the tournament in overtime. It was great.”

He described the goal, “It was a one-on-one against the defenseman and I just remember going over his stick and I was on my backhand and put it top corner. I remember it like it was yesterday, but it was probably 15 years ago.”

PA Parenteau #15 of the New York Islanders shoots and scores the winning goal in a shoot out against Goaltender Scott Clemmensen #30 of the Florida Panthers at the BankAtlantic Center on March 19, 2011 in Sunrise, Florida. (Photo by Eliot J. Schechter/NHLI via Getty Images)
Parenteau would go on to have several strong seasons in 'The Q', but none more than his 2001-2002 season with the Chicoutimi Sagueneens. In 68 games, he scored 118 points (51g/67a) along with teammate Pierre-Marc Bouchard, who would score 140 points.

In 2002-2003, after another stellar offensive campaign with Chicoutimi and the Sherbrooke Castors, 103 points (33g/70a) Parenteau was named to the Canadian World Junior team. The team finished second to Russia, but Parenteau was able to score seven points (4g/3a) in six games.

Despite being a very good player in the American Hockey Leauge, Parenteau acknowledges that he played in the minors longer than he had wanted. He would score above a point-per-game from 2006-2007 onward, in Portland, Norfolk and Hartford.

“He’s one of the few guys I saw dominate the American league,” Islanders Head Coach Jack Capuano said. “I coached against him too many times.”

When Parenteau was in Hartford, he played against Capuano’s Bridgeport Sound Tigers, giving the coach a good look at what he could do.

Until last season, Parenteau couldn’t find a steady gig in the NHL. The Islanders signed him as a free agent, giving him an opportunity, and Capuano said he made the most of it.  In 81 games last year for the Isles, Parenteau finished second on the team in points with 20 goals and 33 assists.

“There were some tough years, some tough patches, but I never wanted to quit,” Parenteau said. “There were a few times I was thinking of going to Europe or just turning the page on the NHL and I’m glad I didn’t do it. It paid off for me.”
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