Zach Parise isn’t ready to look back at the Minnesota Wild’s 2016-17 season in a positive light just yet. Despite the team having it’s most successful year as an NHL franchise, they still exited the postseason in five games in Round 1 thanks to the St. Louis Blues.
“Yeah, as of right now in everyone’s mind the disappointing end kind of casts a shadow over everything that happened in the regular season,” Parise told Yahoo Sports earlier this week. “I do think it is important to still remember the good season that we did have, and I know it’s only the regular season, but it’s still hard. It’s tough in the regular season, and we played well for 90 percent of the regular season and guys had really good seasons and did things that I think we should be excited about over the next couple of years. Again, you always look at you got knocked out of the playoffs in five game. I think that’s unfortunately what you remember.”
Parise was making the rounds last week as a spokesperson for chocolate milk, which has been his go-to recovery drink for a while now.
We spoke with Parise about the Wild heading into next season, the NHL’s Olympic decision and more.
Q. Does the mindset heading into next season for the Wild have to be one of erasing the Blues series from memory or should that stay with the team to serve as motivation?
PARISE: “I think it would stay with us. I really do. It was a different season for us here that we’ve had in the last little while where I feel like the last two months we basically had to win 90 percent of the games just to get in to the playoffs. We were playing ‘playoff hockey’ for three months before the playoffs even started. This year, it was just a different scenario where we clinched with a lot of time left. There wasn’t really anyone threatening us for home ice. I don’t want to say we threw it in cruise control but I just feel like we didn’t have that hunger that we had in past years of playing that intense hockey for a couple months before it started. You hear it all the time, it’s tough to just flip a switch and say ‘OK, now we’ve got to play in the playoffs.’ It’s not easy to do.”
Why chocolate milk? People might not think of it as a post-workout, post-game option.
“The more and more that I’ve learned about it, you see all the benefits that chocolate milk has for recovery after games, practices, summer and training. You see the benefit that it has after just a hard workout to help you recover for the next day, and whether that is during the season or during the summer, it’s so important to be able to bounce back.”
How long have you been going to chocolate milk on a regular basis?
“It’s funny because I was going on official visits for college and I was out at Boston University and I remember going to the locker room and they showed me their room and their refrigerator was full of chocolate milk – and this was kind of when I was starting to get exposed to supplements and training. So all of a sudden I see in their thing it was all chocolate milk and their strength coach and their coach explained to me why they drink chocolate milk after practice. So I’m thinking oh this is great, I like it anyway, but now OK this is good for me to have after a practice, after a game.”
What’s your off-season schedule like? How long do you stay away from the gym and the ice before getting back to it for next season?
“It’s usually about a couple of weeks, maybe 2-3 weeks of doing nothing, just getting treatment for bumps and bruises that you get through the season. And then probably the third or fourth week I’ll start to play a lot of tennis, just for the cardio, and usually I take a good month off of skating and lifting. You don’t want to get burnt out, but this year I’m going to start skating a little earlier and a little more than I have in the past couple of years.”
As you’ve gotten older how has your off-season schedule evolved?
“I found one year – it was the lockout year, actually — that I trained too much I felt like, and halfway through the season I was exhausted where I felt like I skated too much in the summer and I worked out too much. So I kind of learned from that a little bit. I tinker with it every year depending on how I feel the season goes; so this year I think I want to skate earlier and a little more than I have the past couple summers.
“As far as the injuries go, it’s been really frustrating. A couple of years ago got hit and hurt your knee and then you hurt your knee again the next year. And then you take a shot to the foot and break your foot — it’s just things that are really annoying and frustrating to deal with unfortunately, but that’s just kind of what I’ve been dealt with. But it’s frustrating because you trained really hard in the summer, want to have a good season, expect to have a good season, and then the last two years get injured early in the year. It just kind of derailed a little bit.”
Regarding the Olympic decision by the NHL, do you feel there’s still a chance that the league could change its stance and let players go to Pyeongchang?
“I hope so, and I hope from hearing the players’ feelings, which I would have hoped would have been a little more important earlier in the negotiation of it. I do hope that it’s reconsidered. Everyone said it; it’s the one time you get best on best in hockey. To me, the people that talk to us about it, the fans and everyone, and how much they love it and how much they love watching it, there’s nothing better. From a player’s standpoint, getting that opportunity, to me, I remember growing up watching the Olympics and then getting the chance to play in two of them. There’s nothing like it. It would be a shame not to have these young guys like the [Connor] McDavids, the [Auston] Matthews’, to not let these guys to get a chance to play on the best stage for their country. It would be unfortunate. I hope there’s time to reconsider it, but I don’t know what’s going to happen.”
What did you think about the U.S. women and their boycott threat before the World Championship?
“It was great for them to go and win gold after that. It was cool to see the way they stuck together and stood up for what they believed in, and they really got all the support from all the men’s side and other players that haven’t been involved in USA Hockey.”
Finally, you wearing your dad’s gloves and helmets during warm-ups was one of the coolest stories of the season. When did you get that idea and where was the gear being stored?
“I was sitting at my house the night before and I had seen the pictures of the jerseys in the locker room the day before. For whatever reason, it just crossed my mind and I was thinking I wonder if my mom – and I knew she wouldn’t throw it away – but I was thinking I wonder if my mom can find that stuff, so I asked her and I asked my brother. My mom dug it up and she still had it in one of his bags in the garage. There was about four pairs of gloves in there and then the one helmet and then she stumbled across his gloves from the Summit Series also. She found some cool stuff we hadn’t seen in a little while.”
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