Though the Minnesota Wild had an off day on Wednesday, Zach Parise and some of his teammates found time in Richfield for an hour-long scrimmage.
Their linemates were a little different than usual, including the likes of former Wild defenseman Keith Ballard, the Minnesota Twins Joe Mauer, and 15 kids who are either current or former patients from Children’s Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota.
"It's special for all the guys: all the kids, and all the players that were nice enough to come out tonight," Parise said before the event began. "Everyone is going to have a good time. It means a lot to us to be able to do it."
Parise and his wife, Alisha, hosted a skating part, an event that was purchased during a live auction at the Children’s Minnesota 2015 Shine Bright Bash.
Alisha sat on the board for that event, as Parise and the Wild continue to have a strong relationship with the local hospital and support Children's.
"It's terrible when you see things like that, or hear stories about that," Parise said. "It's said, and it's not fair, so for us to be able to come out and be with some of these kids, play with them, raise money for the cause, we love to be able to do it."
The scrimmage itself was a high-scoring, back-and-forth affair that intermittently featured Wild players getting to know some of their new teammates on the benches between shifts.
On Parise's bench, Chris Porter and Erik Haula introduced themselves to nine-year-old Gabriella, who was about to turn 10.
"You guys are getting old," Porter said. "You're going to be driving soon."
Further down on the bench, Jared Spurgeon was giving advice to a linemate.
"Just cherry-pick," Spurgeon said. "We'll play defense; you guys can play offense."
There were lots of words of encouragement and teaching moments from the Wild players to their new teammates throughout the game.
With Parise's team in possession behind the net, a player rimmed the puck around the end-boards, and past the extended stick of a forechecker.
"Did Rick Wilson coach you?" Parise yelled.
The game did have some competitiveness though. With Parise's team leading after the first half, on the other bench, Ryan Suter offered up a pep talk.
"We need some more shots on this goalie," Suter said. "If we shoot them, he'll let them in."
Suter's team obliged, and staged a come-from-behind victory against Parise and Niklas Backstrom.
"It makes events like these easy; they run themselves," said Jim Leste, Senior Director of Operations for Children's. " These guys come with great integrity. Zach in particular has stepped forward and has really been a role model for these kids."
The pointers weren't all Wild player-to child, as Mauer stood on the bench, admitting he could use some tutelage.
"I'll skate a little bit in the offseason, but kind of on my own," he said. "I don't get in the games as much. It's a great workout, it's a lot of fun, and I grew up in Minnesota, so I love the game of hockey.
"I know these kids just want to skate with the guys, and not me."
As the scrimmage wrapped up, the competitors gathered at center ice for a group picture, before the families of the children spilled onto the ice to pose for photos.
Many of the children also left with a souvenir stick, gifted by a Wild player as he made his way back to the locker room.
"All of us remember when we were the young kids, and watching the NHL players on TV, getting a chance to meet them, we all remember how star struck we were, and how great of an experience it was," Parise said. "Now that the roles are reversed you want to give back, and you want to make sure that you're being a good role model for the kids."