Zach Parise is bullish about Team USA’s chances to bring home a men's ice hockey medal at next year's Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia. The Wild left wing is one of 48 U-S born NHL stars attending USA Hockey's two-day Olympic orientation session today in Arlington, Va., just outside Washington, D. C.
Along with his Wild teammate defenseman Ryan Suter, Parise was busy being interviewed by many of the more than 100 journalists gathered at the Kettler Ice Complex, training site of the Washington Capitals, where the orientation is being held. Parise, who scored the tying goal in the 2010 Olympic final against Canada in Vancouver sending the game to overtime (Canada eventually won the game and the Gold), said he feels the experience of coming so close to the Gold Medal in those Games will help the U.S. focus this year.
In an interview with NBC Sports, he talked of the hurt and disappointment in the dressing room after the 4-3 overtime loss to Canada, on Sidney Crosby's goal. He said many of the players were stunned into disbelief at how quickly that game was over. Asked about which rivalry in the Olympics is the most intense, Canada vs. U.S., or Russia against U.S., the son of a famous Canadian NHL star, JP, was quick to say it’s the Canadians that the Americans want to beat the most.
"Its something about being neighbors." Parise added.
The Minnesota native was also upbeat about the Wild's chances of returning to the Stanley Cup Playoffs this season. Parise praised the addition of feisty forward Matt Cooke, whom he saw a lot of while playing in the Eastern Conference. Parise went on to name another free-agent acquisition he feels will strengthen the club in Baudette-native Keith Ballard. Last season’s leading scorer with the Wild believes maturing players Charlie Coyle and Swede Jonas Brodin, the tenth overall pick in the 2011 NHL draft, should be major contirbutors after a year of pro seasoning.
The winger added that a healthy Dany Heatley will also boost the Wild's chances, and he says Mikael Granlund should be an improved player with a year in the NHL under his belt.
The players were unable to practice together, as this is an off-ice orientation camp. However, several of the invitees, including Wild defender Ryan Suter, took to the ice to give hockey tips to about 40 local youth players, who were scrambling around in pick-up hockey games at either ends of the rink.
Tuesday's session will feature the introduction of the new USA Hockey Olympic uniforms.
Special to Wild.com from Andrew Guthrie