ST. PAUL, Minn. -- Minnesota Wild forward Zach Parise was back on the ice Friday, trying to find a little bit of normalcy in what has been a trying few weeks.
Parise's father, former NHL player J.P. Parise, died Wednesday after a battle with lung cancer.
Zach Parise has been away from the team since Tuesday, missing two games and a practice, but was able to spend time with his father and his family during J.P.'s final days.
"Not only the last few days, but the last month has been really hard," Parise said. "Last night, watching the game, finally my wife told me, 'You have to go to the rink. You have to go and practice and get away and try to get back in the groove of things.'"
Parise said a number of current and former NHL players and coaches have reached out to him and his family over the past few days, offering support, sharing stories and wanting to convey what J.P. meant to them.
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 ›
The elder Parise spent several years at Shattuck-St. Mary's Prep School in Faribault, Minn., as a coach and then as hockey director. J.P. Parise played a significant role in the hockey development of current NHL stars Sidney Crosby, Jonathan Toews and Kyle Okposo, among many others.
"The guys who have reached out to me that he coached, the way he influenced them as players, but more importantly, as people," Parise said. "A buddy of mine was telling me about when he was down at Shattuck, how many times [J.P.] probably saved him from a suspension. But the way he went to bat for the kids. ... He wanted to see his players, the people he cared about, he just wanted to see them succeed.”
Parise thanked his teammates for the support and specifically mentioned defenseman and longtime friend Ryan Suter, who lost his father, Bob, to a heart attack in September.
"It was a different scenario. We knew it was coming," Parise said of his father dying. "Ryan told me things he wasn't able to do because he lost his dad so suddenly. All the time he'd say, 'Stay home from practice. Spend as much time with him as you can.' The whole team was incredible. With him having gone through it he was very supportive, calling all the time when he knew what were the last couple days. It meant a lot to us."
Parise also echoed Suter's comments from Thursday about how signing together in Minnesota in the summer of 2012 ended up being a blessing.
"We didn't know that was the plan, but it worked out pretty good," Parise said. "As hard as it has been, the last year, seeing what he's had to go through, if we weren't here to be with him, to support him, that would have been a nightmare. We did get to spend a lot of great time with him so those are the things that will mean a lot and we'll always remember."
Wild coach Mike Yeo said he got a text message from Parise on Friday morning saying he was ready to return to the team. Parise said he plans on playing Saturday against the Nashville Predators and will travel with the Wild on their upcoming road trip against the Chicago Blackhawks, Pittsburgh Penguins and Buffalo Sabres.
"It was important for me to get back," Parise said. "We can sit and home and sulk, but I know my dad probably would have been mad at me for skipping the San Jose [Sharks] game and he probably would have been mad at me for not playing [Thursday against the Chicago Blackhawks] too."
Yeo said, "I hope we can offer some kind of distraction or help. Anything to help the process of him getting through this. Not a bad thing for us either ... we're getting a pretty good player back."
Parise said the funeral for J.P. will be Jan. 16.