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Five Questions: Parise On Olympic Hopes

by Dan Rosen / Minnesota Wild's weekly Q&A feature called "Five Questions With ..." runs every Tuesday. We talk to key figures in the game today and ask them questions to gain insight into their lives, careers and the latest news.

The latest edition features Minnesota Wild left wing and United States captain Zach Parise:

SOCHI -- Zach Parise has been answering questions about elation and deflation for four years. It's been long enough.

Parise, the captain of the United States men's hockey team in the 2014 Sochi Olympics, got on the Olympic ice Monday night local time for the first time since Feb. 28, 2010, when he and the rest of his American teammates dejectedly skated off the ice in Vancouver with silver medals around their necks and the realization that what once was considered a far-fetched dream had come within one shot from becoming a reality.

"You step out onto the ice and you can't believe you're back here again and how quick it went by," Parise told following practice at Bolshoy Ice Dome. "Those four years went by really fast."

Yet quite a lot has changed for Parise since he scored the game-tying goal with 24.4 seconds left in regulation against Canada only to watch Sidney Crosby win the gold medal for the host Canadians with the shot seen round the world.

Parise became a captain with the New Jersey Devils in 2011, led them to the Stanley Cup Final in 2012 and days after they watched the Los Angeles Kings celebrate at their expense he signed a 13-year, $98 million contract to return to his home state to play for the Wild.

Now Parise is back in the Olympics, only this time with a "C" stitched to his red, white and blue jersey and a realistic expectation to win the gold medal.

Parise spoke to about being the American captain, putting to bed what happened four years ago in Vancouver and more.

Here are Five Questions with … Zach Parise:

You have the "C" on your jersey here. The last time you wore a "C" you went to the Stanley Cup Final with the New Jersey Devils. What does it mean to be the captain here and can you draw off your experience of being a captain before?

"Any time you wear a 'C' it's a special thing. In the NHL it's a really special thing, and then to be the captain of the national team, the Olympic team, I was really humbled when they asked me to be and told me I was going to be. I mean, to be named to the Olympic team is one thing. Then to be picked as the captain, I was pretty excited, my parents were pretty excited. Hopefully everything goes well.

"I do think in players there are different leadership qualities whether they have the 'C' or not. I had the 'A' in Jersey for a while before I had the 'C.' Then I had that for a year and I've had the 'A' in Minnesota for a short while, two years, but it never changes anything about you."

Four years ago you had an incredible high followed by a jolting low. It hasn't gone away. Everybody still wants to ask you about that gold-medal game and your range of emotions. Can you put all that to bed here?

"Well, ideally, but you can't afford to look that far ahead. There's never a shoo-in, never an easy game. It's hard to predict. Hopefully we'll find ourselves in that last game again and have a chance to win. But in saying that you know there are a lot of teams capable of winning it."

A lot of people want to make a big deal about the big ice here in Sochi as opposed to the NHL-sized rink. How does it affect A) your game, and B) your team's game?

"My game, personally, I think there's a little more room in the corners and you can try to gain a little more speed through the neutral zone. I feel like it's more puck control through the neutral zone as opposed to post-up and chip it in like in the NHL. For our team I think it's about adjusting early. The teams we'll be playing against [Russia, Slovakia, Slovenia] are pretty comfortable playing on these surfaces. The North American style is skate 100 miles-per-hour at everybody and finish your checks where I think sometimes [here] we have to make sure we're passive at the right times. We can't be running around."

Players talk during the NHL season about the focus in an Olympic year being on the NHL season until you get to the Olympics. In reality, when did you start really thinking about this and realizing that, 'Whoa, the Olympics are almost here?'

"I think it was really once I was named captain [Jan. 31], but it started once we picked the team. Then it gets a little more serious and you start to have some dialogue between the players and coaches. Then I was named captain, February strolls around and you always get that Olympic feel once February is here. You see the commercials for the Olympics. It's always in the back of your mind [as the NHL season is going on] but you try to block it out as best as you can."

Is it easy to flip the switch from the NHL season to the Olympics and what do you have to do to adjust?

"Yeah, I think so. It's just mentally you understand the stakes are different and you understand what you're playing for. I can't speak for everyone else, but for me right away you just know it's a different game."

Follow Dan Rosen on Twitter at: @drosennhl

Author: Dan Rosen | Senior Writer

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