Team USA hockey has found their captain to lead them into the Sochi Olympics. They have chosen winger Zach Parise of the Minnesota Wild . This is not new territory for the Wild’s prized acquisition from two years ago. He helped lead a surprising United States (US) squad into the gold medal game in Vancouver. They eventually ended up losing and coming out of the Olympic games in 2010 with a silver metal. Zach will not be the only Wild player to represent the US. His fellow teammate and defenseman, Ryan Suter, will accompany him as well. Ryan Suter and Los Angeles Kings center, Dustin Brown, will serve as alternate captains in Sochi.
The US hockey team might have picked their leader at the right time. Zach Parise has been playing lights-out hockey for the Minnesota Wild since his return to the ice. After recovering from the leg injury that sidelined him for a month, he has taken seven points in four games with three goals in that span. Minnesota has been fighting to get their name back into the playoff chase, currently sitting seventh in the standings with only a few weeks ago, they were not even in the top eight seeds. Minnesota will need all of its Olympic participants to return from Sochi healthy, and ready to make a run at a post season birth this at the end of the NHL year.
Either way, Zach Parise is openly privileged and honored to be named captain of the squad. He spent his last stint on the Olympic team in Vancouver as an alternate captain to a former teammate of his in New Jersey, Jamie Langenbrunner. One thing the new captain praised Jamie for teaching him was his “lead by example” style. Parise has carried his blue-collar mentality everywhere he has played, and it has started to rub off on his younger teammates in Minnesota. Head Coach of the US team, Dan Bylsma ,has preached that they will need Parise’s work ethic, and his never-quit attitude to carry their Olympic team to its first gold metal since the “Miracle on Ice” team in 1980.
Mikko Koivu, Mikael Granlund, and Nino Neiderreitter will also join Suter and Parise in the Sochi Olympics; Koivu being named the captain of Finland’s hockey team. The state of Minnesota itself will be represented by eight players on the US roster, with New York coming in at six. All members of the roster are reaching to achieve a goal that no other US national team has reached in over 34 years. They want to be able to stand atop the podium and call themselves gold medalists. The competition will be stern with many teams boasting some of the most talented players to set a pair of skates on the ice. When hockey begins for the men in 12 days, many will see their expectations be broken and others may see a dark horse rise above all. A Parise-led US team will rely on its grit and will power to push through its way to hopefully a better showing than four years before. All will be talked about and analyzed now, but the games will speak for themselves as the newly found captain, Zach Parise, leads his US teammates into Sochi; hoping they can do something that no one has in over two decades for Team USA hockey.
by Justin Huffman
Twin Cities Pioneer Press