EXCERPT: Frozen in Time
Former Minnesota North Star hockey standout, Jean-Paul Parise, passed away last week. The following is an excerpt from Frozen in Time: A Minnesota North Stars History by Adam Raider that details Parise as a fan favorite.
J.P. Parise (1967-75, 1978-79)
Jean-Paul (J.P.) Parise lacked the eye-popping speed and thunderous shot of contemporaries like Bobby Hull and Guy Lafleur. But the scrappy, undersized left wing garnered acclaim as a dependable and highly coachable checker willing to work hard along the boards and sacrifice statistics when defensive hockey was required.
“He was a workhorse,” said Cesare Manaigo. “He didn’t have had the God-given talent that a lot of other guys had, so he had to work to make himself the player that he was. He was probably one of the best cornermen in the league at that time. I played with him in the old Central League and he showed me then that he was capable of making it just with a strong work ethic.”
Wren Blair, who had coached Parise in Kingston of the EPHL, had his eyes on the winger since the expansion draft. But the Oakland Seals snatched him up just before Minnesota’s next pick. Oakland then dealt him to the Maple Leafs, who in turn sent him down to their AHL affiliate in Rochester. When Rochester dropped to last place in December 1967, Blair hatched a scheme to finally get his man.
Murray Hall, Duke Harris, Don Johns and Len Lunde found out during the North Stars’ Christmas skating party that they were being shipped out in an eight-player deal to bring Parise and center Milan Marcetta to Minnesota.
Placed on a line with Bill Goldsworthy and Andre Boudrias, Parise became the heart and soul of the North Stars.
“J.P. was a terrific competitor, a tenacious worker and a great person,” said Lou Nanne. “He was totally committed to playing the game once the season started and he never shortchanged you a nickel the whole year. And he was a great guy to pull pranks on.”
Parise’s efforts were rewarded with invitations to represent the North Stars at the All-Star Game in 1970 and 1973. And while his unremitting hustle made him a fan-favorite in Minnesota, he was a generally unsung hero who went to work each night with a stick in one hand and a lunch pail in the other.
But the spotlight found Parise in 1972 when he joined Goldsworthy, Bobby Clarke, Phil Esposito and other top players of the day to represent Canada in the classic Summit Series against the Soviet Union. He played in six of the eight games, recording two goals and four points. He was also the tournament’s leader in penalty minutes (28), though most of those came in the final game in Moscow.
Canada went on to win the hard-fought series and when Parise returned from Russia, his hometown of Smooth Rock Falls, Ontario welcomed him with a day in his honor.
About halfway through the 1974-75 season, GM Jack Gordon took a long, hard look at his struggling club and decided that it was time to start phasing out some of the older players from the Wren Blair era. Parise, by then an eight-year veteran North Star, was terrified that Gordon would dump him on one of the new expansion teams. He even went to Gordon’s office one day and pleaded not to be traded to the New York Islanders who, in their infancy, were certainly the worst of the lot.
Soon thereafter, Parise received an early-morning call telling him to come to the GM’s office at Met Center.
Because the Bruins had been in Bloomington the night before, and because they had injuries, Parise wondered if Boston would be his next destination. He envisioned himself playing alongside Bobby Orr, at last competing for a Stanley Cup. Instead, when he arrived at Met Center, Gordon informed him that he had been traded to the Islanders.
“I wanted to jump over the desk and strangle him,” Parise later recalled.
But Parise’s Long Island experience turned out far better than he could have imagined. Later that season, he scored a colossal overtime goal in the opening round of the Wales Conference playoffs, defeating the Rangers and giving the Islanders their first-ever playoff series victory.
Three years later, the Islanders traded Parise to the Cleveland Barons. When the Barons merged with Parise’s old team, the North Stars, he found himself back in familiar territory. He played the last season of his career in Minnesota.
After retiring as a player, Parise spent eight seasons as an assistant coach with the North Stars before embarking on a career selling commercial insurance. He later became director of hockey at Shattuck-St. Mary’s High School in Faribault, Minnesota where he coached sons Zach and Jordan. Both brothers eventually turned pro in the New Jersey Devils system.