At the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver, it took Zach Parise
, Ryan Suter
and Team USA less than 30 minutes to go from the highest of highs to the lowest of lows.
Playing against the host country, Team Canada, in the Gold Medal Game, Parise and the United States were down, 2-1, in the third period. With time winding down, the Americans pulled goaltender Ryan Miller for an extra attacker and a last ditch effort to even the score.
Suter walked the puck down the left wall and wrapped it to Joe Pavelski in the right corner. Pavelski’s centering pass was deflected into the slot and–in one motion–Patrick Kane tracked down the puck, spun and fired a wild shot towards the net. The puck bounced around in the crease where Parise found it and slid it past Team Canada goaltender Roberto Luongo. Parise leapt into the glass in wild celebration with the exuberance of a student at the final bell on the last day of school. With 24 seconds remaining in regulation and heading into overtime, it looked like the Americans would have all the momentum.
“That’s something I’ll never forget. Scoring that goal was awesome, the feeling after scoring that was incredible,” Parise said to the NHL Network. “Unfortunately about 20 minutes later it was about the worse feeling I’ve ever had.”
Sidney Crosby scored the game’s golden goal only 7:40 into overtime and ended Team USA’s hopes for another miracle on ice.
However, at the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics, Parise and Suter will both get a chance to redeem the American’s second place finish in Vancouver. Both Wild players are set to represent the USA in Sochi, Russia at this year’s Winter Games. The announcement of Team USA’s roster came after the National Hockey League’s Winter Classic between the Detroit Red Wings and Toronto Maple Leafs on Jan. 1.
Both are familiar with international competition. The 2014 Olympics will be the eighth tournament Parise has represented the United States. Parise tallied eight points (4-4=8) in six games for Team USA in 2010. He ranked tied for third in the tournament in scoring and served as an alternate captain. It will be the 11th time Suter has represented the red, white and blue. Suter recorded four assists, which tied for the team lead, in six games as an alternate captain for Team USA in 2010. Led Team USA in time on ice per game at 22:50 and tied for tournament lead with plus-nine rating.
Parise and Suter will be joined by Minnesotan natives David Backes (St. Louis Blues), TJ Oshie (St. Louis Blues), Derek Stepan (New York Rangers), Ryan McDonagh (New York Rangers), Justin Faulk (Carolina Hurricanes), Blake Wheeler (Winnipeg Jets) and Paul Martin (Pittsburgh Penguins) in search of Gold in Sochi.
Parise will bring the experience of 2010 and leadership into this year’s Olympics.
“It was a lot different than any other game,” Parise said. “The pressure during the game, each play, the nerves before the game were something that–I guess the only thing that would come close would be playing in the Stanley Cup Finals. But it’s a whole new level when you’re playing in the Gold Medal Game.”
At the time, the disappointment for the Americans was unbearable. And even though the weight of winning the Silver Medal has grown with time, Parise still remembers the game as a loss and the pain that came with it.
“It took awhile, but it’s still brutal that we lost the game,” Parise said. “After awhile you kind of understand and grasp how special it is to still win a Silver Medal at the Olympics. It’s still pretty awesome. Not a lot of people get that chance. In hindsight, yeah it’s awesome that we got Silver, but you still think back and think how close you were to winning Gold.
“Hockey players aren’t like that. You lose and that’s it.”
The Americans will skate for Gold along with 11 other countries in Sochi, Russia.
The National Hockey League will suspend play for two weeks in February as the best players in the world represent their countries at the tournament.
Putting on a country’s colors is the highest honor for an athlete. Representing their countries in international competition is something that the NHLers prize.
“It’s very humbling. It’s an honor every time you can wear a USA sweater–obviously the Olympics are a whole other level and it’s a privilege,” Suter said. “The biggest thing is just the stage. You don’t really appreciate the Olympics until you’re there, until you’re a part of it. That’s probably the biggest thing.”
As for the rest of the countries participating in the Olympics, their rosters must be announced by Jan. 7. The Wild has several hopefuls vying for their first Olympic appearances including Mikael Granlund (Finland), Jonas Brodin (Sweden) and Nino Niederreiter (Switzerland). Mikko Koivu will make Team Finland for the third straight time, previously winning a Silver Medal (2006) and Bronze (2010).
The Wild has had a number of players participate in the Olympics. In 2010 Niklas Backstrom and Antti Miettinen skated alongside Koivu for Finland, while Martin Havlat and Marek Zidlicky represented the Czech Republic. At the 2006 Games, Daniel Tjarnqvist won a Gold Medal with Sweden, while Filip Kuba won Bronze with the Czech Republic, and Marian Gaborik (Slovakia) and Brian Rolston (USA) both skated for their countries.