August 12, 2013

J.P. Parise

While his son Zach has made a name for himself as a NHL sniper, dad J.P. Parise was more of an all-around digger and mucker. His game was underrated both offensively and defensively. He was a popular though unsung player.

Jean Paul Parise came out of juniors after having played for the Niagara Falls Flyers under the tutelage of coach Hap Emms. It was Emms who molded "Jeep" into a defensively sound left winger.

J.P. spent his first two professional seasons (1963-65) playing for the Minneapolis Bruins of the CHL. He got his first taste of NHL action during the 1965-66 season when he appeared in three games with the Boston Bruins. He continued to develop his skills for Boston's farm team, the Oklahoma Blazers (CHL).

Boston was loaded with talent at that time so the B's left J.P. unprotected in the expansion draft where he was claimed by the Oakland Seals on June 6, 1967. Before the season started they sent him to Toronto together with Bryan Hextall for Gerry Ehman (October 3, 1967). J.P.'s stint with Toronto was short-lived and after only one game he was traded to Minnesota in a huge trade that involved eight players including himself. (December 26, 1967).

In less than six months he was the property of four teams. Fortunately the stint in Minnesota would last for eight seasons. J.P. quickly developed into one of the leagues best cornermen which drew a lot of praise from coaches around the league. J.P.'s versatility enabled him to take on almost any roll his coach wanted him to.

He scored 72 points in 1969-70 when he had an offensive role on the team, the next season he was playing on a checking line and his point total dipped to 34 points. But although he only scored 34 points his work didn't go unnoticed around the league. He for example he played in the first 21 games of the season without being on the ice a single time when the opposition scored, which tells us a little bit about his fine defensive skills. This for a mediocre team taking regular shifts.

A self described journeyman hockey player, J.P. Parise was a surprise inclusion on the initial version of Team Canada for the 1972 Summit Series. But his hustle and determination proved to be valuable assets for the team, and the man who was surprised to play any games ended up playing in 6 out of 8 games against the Soviets.

Parise claims his favorite part of the series was being able to play in that historic eighth game where Paul Henderson scored the most famous goal in hockey history. Of course Parise didn't get to finish that game. He was ejected from the game when he came perilously close to deliberately injuring incompetent referee Josef Kompalla.

Kompalla was a blatantly bias official who refereed games 6 and 8. In game 6 he did his best to all but officially give Russia a victory thanks to an unthinkable 31 penalty minutes to Canada vs. only 4 to Russia. Game 8 was supposed to be refereed by another official, but suspiciously he was said to be ill at the last moment, and the Soviets said Kompalla had to officiate.

At just 4:10 of the first period, Parise became the third Canadian player penalized for a questionable infraction. It was obvious that Kompalla was up to his tricks at that early stage of the game, and Parise had had enough already.

"He gave me a penalty and I broke my stick on the ice and then faked a swing at him. I never planned to hit him. I just wanted to show him we'd had enough," said Parise.

Parise's near decapitation of the cowering official is what this veteran of almost 900 NHL games is best known for. And he certainly doesn't seem to regret his now-famous (infamous?) actions.

Three different WHA teams tried to sign him, but he turned down all offers even though he would have got a lot more money. J.P. went on to score a career highs in points (75), goals (27) and assists (48). He played another two seasons in Minnesota before being traded to the NY Islanders in the middle of the 1974-75 season. The Islanders were looking for an experienced player who could help lead their team. J.P. played very well in New York and had a couple of fine seasons that saw him score 57 and 56 points during his full seasons with the team.

He was traded to the Cleveland Barons during the 1977-78 season. As Cleveland merged with Minnesota North Stars before the 1978-79 season he got to finish his career with the team that he had spent most of NHL career with. J.P. scored 22 pts in 57 games for Minnesota.

Although J.P. was unspectacular he was the kind of player that every team loved to have. A very coachable player who played a total of 890 regular season games in the NHL scoring 594 pts (238+356) and 58 pts (27+31) in 86 playoff games.

He never won the Stanley Cup, but beside the honor to represent Canada among all the stars in 1972 he also got two trips to the All-Star game in 1970 and 1973.

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