After a contract buyout by the Minnesota Wild late this summer, Parrish found himself in a sticky situation. He and Wild Head Coach Jacques Lemaire “didn’t see eye to eye” on what kind of player Parrish was to be, and what role he had on the team.
“When [Lemaire] decided to come back, I kind of saw the writing on the wall,” Parrish said. “I wasn’t expecting a buyout that late in the summer, and it really handcuffed me going into this season. It put me behind the eight ball.”
After collecting 69 points (35 goals, 34 assists) in 142 games with the Wild throughout the 2006-07 and 2007-08 seasons, Parrish found himself a free agent July 29. Being released so late in the summer, just more than a month before most teams would start reporting for training camp, Parrish had virtually no time to find a team to sign with to stay in the NHL. Since there was nothing he could really do about the timing, Parrish said he just stayed in shape and hoped an opportunity would come his way.
Enter the Dallas Stars.
Struggling a bit with injuries and scoring, the Stars knew they needed help. Starting the season without right wing Jere Lehtinen and defenseman Sergei Zubov, Dallas was without two of their key scorers and, more importantly, key veterans. Someone was needed to come in and not only provide some much-needing scoring, but a veteran voice, as well.
With encouragement from center Mike Modano, who’d played with Parrish, 31, on the US Team in the Olympics and in the World Championships a few years before, and Head Coach Dave Tippett, the Stars signed Parrish to a one-year contract Nov. 3.
“Excited doesn’t quite cover it,” Parrish said at the time. “I wish I had a Thesaurus! I’m more than happy to be here and don’t think I’ve slept in three days.”
Parrish has also played for the Kings, Islanders and Panthers. Drafted by Colorado in the third round, 79th overall, at the 1996 Entry Draft, Parrish played in 660 NHL games before coming to the Stars, scoring 208 goals and recording 164 assists for 372 career points. Parrish skated for Team USA at the 2006 Winter Olympics and also represented the US at the 2001 World Championships.
Parrish, originally from Bloomington, Minnesota, said playing with the Wild in his home state was a dream come true and, despite some frustrations with the team and the coach, was a wonderful opportunity. And although the buyout came at a bad time so late in the summer, Parrish said it turned out to be a blessing in disguise, as it gave him the chance to make a difference here in Dallas.
“Obviously the team is struggling a little bit right now, but that just makes it more exciting to be around here and be a part of us digging ourselves out of this,” he said. “You can see the talent out there on the ice and it’s just a matter of time before we turn it around.”
“He has the opportunity to help us,” Tippett said. “He is a veteran, and that experience helps us. You can tell he has poise with the puck.”
“When it’s the coach pushing for you, it’s a very good feeling and it makes you excited to come and play for them right away,” Parrish said of Tippett’s encouragement on signing him to a contract. “You want to prove them right.”
And prove them right he did. Despite some admitted nerves before his first game with the Stars in Anaheim on Nov. 7, Parrish calmed down quickly en route to scoring a hat trick in the 5-2 win over the Ducks.
“I hope there’s no pressure or expectations after tonight,” Parrish joked after the game. “I was hoping to get off to a good start, I got some good bounces and great plays by my linemates. I wanted to make a difference and contribute to a win and it feels good that we won tonight.”
“Great start by Parrish, we knew he was in his element,” Tippett said. “He had some timely goals on the spot and he was a solid player for us.”
Before he ever set foot on the ice in a Stars uniform, Parrish was dishing out the compliments to the Dallas centermen – Mike Ribeiro
, Brad Richards and Mike Modano. As a right-handed right wing, known as a finisher and a guy who likes to put the puck in the back of the net, Parrish said he couldn’t be put in a better situation.
“Any right wing in the league that looks at this team up the middle would just salivate to have the chance to play with these guys,” he said. “These are all left-handed centermen, and as a right-handed right wing, it’s an absolute dream come true.”
The fourth center on the team, Toby Petersen
, even has some history with Parrish. The two Minnesota natives started playing hockey together when they were nine, and ended up playing on the same team in high school, winning a state championship. Petersen ended up at Colorado College while Parrish went to one of Colorado’s rivals, St. Cloud State. The two have kept tabs on each other ever since, and Parrish said it doesn’t matter which of the four centers he gets placed alongside, there will be success.
“Even if I get stuck playing with Toby,” Parrish joked. “We know each other really well, so no matter who I’m with, I’m ecstatic.”
“I was thrilled when I found out Mark was coming, because I know he adds a lot,” Petersen said. “He’s proven that he can score goals, he’s reliable and he’s a leader. He brings a lot to the table for us, and Mark knows that. He has confidence and knows he can provide a lot for us.”
Parrish is thrilled that things seem to be working out here in Dallas, and only hopes they can continue to do so. After bouncing around the league, Parrish said he hopes Dallas could be the team he sticks with.
“I’m hoping that’s what happens,” he said. “I’m hoping I can prove myself and show that I’m the kind of player they want here, the kind of player they want to keep around.”
Parrish’s wife, Nicholle, was also very excited about moving down to Dallas with their two dogs and 9-month old daughter, Gianna.
Along with the weather, there are many positives Parrish sees about Dallas. Having been here throughout his career as the opposing team, he was fairly familiar with the surrounding area and the rink.
“It’s a city that everybody looks forward to coming and visiting, and a town everybody looks forward to playing in,” he said. “The idea of coming and playing here full time and having it be my home rink and my hometown is fantastic.”
Parrish is thanking his lucky stars he has found an opportunity to excel in Dallas. As the season continues, the Stars hope Parrish gives them many things to be thankful for.