His face pinched in a frown, Zach Parise lowered his head just enough for an Olympic official to drape a silver-medal ribbon over his neck. Parise, the star left wing of the New Jersey Devils, had not come to the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver for a silver medal.
Parise and two fellow New Jersey residents—Devils right wing Jamie Langenbrunner and Bobby Ryan, the Cherry Hill native who skates for the Anaheim Ducks—were playing for America’s first ice- hockey gold medal since the Miracle on Ice at Lake Placid 30 years ago.
The U.S. team’s 3–2 overtime loss to Canada in the February 28 gold-medal game riveted the sellout crowd and the huge TV audience; the end result stung the U.S. players and coaches.
“Throughout that whole game we thought we were going to win,” Parise said after the matchup.
The 25-year-old Parise, a native of Minneapolis who lives in Hoboken and has played for the Devils for five years, had given the U.S. team a glorious opportunity by swiping a loose puck past Canadian goaltender Roberto Luongo with 25 seconds left in regulation play to tie the game, 2–2.
Canada won the gold on Sidney Crosby’s goal at 7 minutes 40 seconds of overtime, but it was Parise’s game-tying goal, his fourth goal in six games at the Olympics, that keyed the delicious suspense. His electrifying play in the tournament excited even those viewers who didn’t know they liked hockey.
Parise is an easy player to like. He scores lots of goals—150 in 386 National Hockey League games before the Olympic break—and is known for his relentless play. Devils’ fans knew it was a smart move to team him on the front line with the U.S. captain, 34-year-old Langenbrunner, a fellow Minnesotan who lives in North Caldwell.
“I’ve been known to get worked up every now and then,” Parise said before the Olympics, “and he’s always there to make sure I’m not getting ahead of myself.”
The Devils’ organization had a deep influence on the U.S. team. General manager Brian Burke and coach Ron Wilson both played under long-time Devils’ general manager Lou Lamoriello when he coached at Providence College. The team strongly resembled the Devils with its ferocious, grind-it-out style.
The United States forced Canada to replace Martin Brodeur, the Devils’ goaltender, with Luongo after a 5-3 opening-round victory February 21. Langenbrunner scored in that game, and Ryan and Parise had assists. Brodeur, a North Caldwell resident, would receive his second gold medal as a member of the Canadian team—but virtually none of the glory.
He could blame his Devils’ teammates for that, but when the team assembled two days later to resume their National Hockey League schedule, the goalie was surely glad to have Parise back on his side. Now, a lot more Americans outside New Jersey know why.