J.P. Parise played his first 22 National Hockey League games with a pair of Original Six teams, the Boston Bruins (21) and Toronto Maple Leafs (one), before making his impact with the North Stars during the 1967-68 season. He would go on to play parts of eight more seasons, and now serves as the Director of Prospect Evaluation at Shattuck-St. Mary’s in Faribault, Minn. He recently sat down with the Wild's Adam Somers to look back as some of his on-ice run-ins with the Wild coaching staff, the empty feeling he had when the Met Center was razed and how times have changed since his playing days.
1. What do you think is the biggest difference in the NHL today compared to when you played?
The kids are a lot more trained and a lot more talented. You used to have maybe two or three good skaters on a team and the rest were average. Now, it is the opposite, you have maybe 15, 16 good skaters on a team and three or four who are mediocre. Plus, the training that the kids do, they train all year, where we played and then in the summer we didn’t do much. These kids now are year-round. Overall, the kids are much better because they practice more and they develop their skills more.
2. What was your fondest memory of hockey in Minnesota?
There is a whole bunch of them. Maybe in the first or second year we were in the playoffs I remember coming on the ice and there was a tremendous ovation from the fans. You could hardly hear yourself. It was something that went right through your body.
3. With your experience at Shattuck-St. Mary’s and as a former player in the state, what do you think of the growth of hockey in Minnesota?
What’s happened is that it has expanded a lot. The players want to play more. Unfortunately, for high school hockey, and I love high school hockey, is they just don’t play enough games and their season is short. At Shattuck, we start our season in the first part of September and go all the way through April. At the high school level, they start in the middle of November and then they’re in the middle of February. Common sense will tell you that with the season being short, you don’t practice, you don’t play, obviously you are not going to develop. You are going back to the days when I played.
4. What was your feeling when the North Stars left? Did you feel Minnesota would ever see another NHL hockey team again?
I was at the last game, and, for the longest time, you don’t really realize what has happened. When it sank in for me was when they blew up the Met Center. I remember that I was not all that emotional about it, and then I went to the Mall of America, the parking lot, and I watched it. It was just a feeling of emptiness, it was just the weirdest moment in my life, you know. It was sad, but, at the same time, it’s like things happen for a reason. Then, all of a sudden, the Wild start and they are a great franchise. It is one of those things with the North Stars leaving, now you have a much nicer building, better players, a better team, so things happen for a reason.
5. Do you have any stories or memories of playing against current Wild coaches and former Montreal Canadians, Jacques Lemaire and Mario Tremblay?
Well, all I can remember was that Mario was a very hard-nosed player. He was a good player, not overly skilled, but just worked his butt off all the time. He was kind of a third line guy who stirred things up and, at the same time, score some goals. And Jacques Lemaire was always playing with some of the top-notch players. A very, very smart player and very, very good player.