ST. PAUL, Minn. -- Together, J.P. Parise and his son, Minnesota Wild forward Zach Parise, have bridged two generations of Minnesota hockey fans.
Over nine seasons, J.P. was one of the most popular players for the Minnesota North Stars. From 1967 until 1975, and again for one final season in 1978-79, the Parise name became synonymous with the North Stars franchise.
J.P. Parise died Wednesday at the age of 73 after a battle with lung cancer.
"He was really a great teammate, and when you think of the guys you've played with and the guys you've played against, the guys who you really got to know, J.P. was one of those guys," said Wild radio analyst Tom Reid, who was with Parise on the North Stars. "It was so fitting the fact that he was able to come back here to Minnesota and have his son come back here."
J.P. Parise was one of the most popular players for the Minnesota North Stars. (Photo: Getty Images)
After J.P.'s playing career was over, he stayed in Minnesota, becoming coach and hockey director at Shattuck-St. Mary's school in Faribault, Minn., about a 35-minute drive from St. Paul.
There he influenced the careers of countless players, including Sidney Crosby of the Pittsburgh Penguins and Jonathan Toews of the Chicago Blackhawks.
Toews said he'd remember J.P. as someone who made his transition to a new school and a new home a lot easier when he arrived at Shattuck as a teenager.
"He had so many great stories and one-liners. Just the advice he'd give to the young guys in high school there. If you were ever going through a tough time, or you weren't playing well or you're having a tough time being away from home, he always seemed to have a way to pick you up," Toews said. "Like I said, he had an amazingly positive effect on myself and a lot of other young hockey players at Shattuck. It meant a lot to our careers for sure."
J.P. also coached Zach, perhaps the most popular current player in what locals call the "State of Hockey." As one of the top players in the NHL, people often forget about Zach's older brother Jordan who, like Zach, played at Shattuck and the University of North Dakota.
Over 45 years of close friendship, Reid said J.P.'s devotion to family and the way he talked about his sons and his wife, Donna, will be what he remembers most.
Jean-Paul Parise: 1941-2015
Longtime NHL forward J.P. Parise dies at 73
By John Kreiser - NHL.com Managing Editor
J.P. Parise, an NHL forward for parts of 17 seasons and the father of Minnesota Wild forward Zach Parise, died Wednesday. He was 73. READ MORE ›
"When he talked about Jordy or Zach, it was always the same," Reid said. "He taught them what it was to be successful."
When Zach signed with the Wild in the summer of 2012, along with close friend Ryan Suter, it allowed each to play closer to family and friends. In recent months, that had been a blessing.
With J.P.'s condition worsening and the unexpected death of Suter's father, Bob, of a heart attack in September, Ryan Suter said coming to Minnesota had taken on special meaning.
"We actually talked about that a week ago, probably two weeks ago when he knew that his dad wasn't doing that well," Suter said. "At least the good thing is we got to be here. Just think if we would have signed other places, they wouldn't have got to come to as many games as they did get a chance to come to. Looking back, that's the best thing that's happened to me."
Opening up about J.P. was especially difficult for Suter with his own emotions still so fresh. The younger Parise and Suter grew up playing against each other, with Zach at Shattuck and Ryan with the Madison Capitols. Parise then went to UND and Suter to the University of Wisconsin. But they've grown close, being a part of several national teams, two U.S. Olympic teams and now with the Wild.
"It's a terrible thing to happen to a good person," Suter said. "I think, us as a team here, we feel for Zach. You know how hard it is having to go through that, for me. So for him, I can't imagine what he's going through right now. Just a good person, and it's too bad that [J.P.'s] gone."