J.P. Parise, a member of Canada's 1972 Summit Series team who played for the Minnesota North Stars and New York Islanders over his NHL career, has died from lung cancer. He was 73.
The Minnesota Wild said that Parise died Wednesday night at his home in the Minneapolis suburb of Prior Lake. Son and Wild star Zach Parise informed the team of his father's death.
"We appreciate the outpouring of support we have received from family, friends and the entire hockey community during this difficult time," the Parise family said Thursday in a statement. "J.P. was a great husband, father and grandpa and will be greatly missed by all of us."
During his playing career, Parise is most remembered for skating on a line with Phil Esposito and Wayne Cashman during the Summit Series and getting ejected in the eighth game, which Canada won on Paul Henderson's famous goal. Parise played in six of the eight games during the legendary series against the Soviet Union.
Hockey Canada chief operating officer Scott Smith credits that team for the growth of the game across Canada.
"I think that group of 1972 players contributed greatly to both things: the interest in international hockey and the significance of any Canada-Russia game but also for the development of coaches at the grassroots level," Smith said in a phone interview.
Sidney Crosby, who played for Parise at Shattuck-St. Mary's prep school, said during Canada's 2014 Olympic orientation camp that some of what he knows of the Canada-Russia rivalry came from his coach.
Parise, a native of Smooth Rock Falls, Ont., spent most of his NHL career with the North Stars and was a two-time all-star. He had 594 points (238 goals, 356 assists) in 890 games from 1965-79 with the Boston Bruins, Toronto Maple Leafs, North Stars, Islanders and Cleveland Barons.
"The National Hockey League family mourns the passing and cherishes the memory of J.P. Parise," NHL commissioner Gary Bettman said in a statement. "Especially in his adopted home state of Minnesota, J.P. was a consummate player, teacher and administrator in the game.
"The Parise name has been prominent in Minnesota hockey since the 1960s, and J.P.'s commitment and passion for the NHL lives on through his son, Zach. The NHL sends heartfelt condolences to J.P.'s family, to his friends, to the Minnesota Wild organization and to all the organizations J.P. represented with such passion."
After retirement, Parise spent nine seasons as a North Stars assistant coach. He later ran the hockey program at Shattuck-St. Mary's school in Faribault, one of the top prep hockey schools in the U.S.
Parise helped oversee the growth of NHL stars such as Crosby and Jonathan Toews. In an interview last year with the Star Tribune, Parise was philosophical about his cancer.
"That's life," he said. "If someone was to tell you today that you're going to be going at 77, 78, you'd say, 'Boy, that's not bad.' I never think of this shortening my life, this shortening anything I'm going to do. I'm still going to travel, I'm still going to watch hockey."
Over the weekend, Zach Parise talked about the impending loss of his father with the Star Tribune.
"It's the hardest thing I've ever had to deal with in my life," he told the newspaper. "You try and find that separation, you try to come here and be around the guys and not think about it, and Yeozie (coach Mike Yeo) has been really good and the team's been really good giving me the day off, saying basically, 'Just show up for games.' They've been really supportive about it, but the hard part about it is you try to go to the rink and forget about stuff, but the hard part is, this was kind of our thing."
"Hockey was our thing," Parise added, fighting back tears. "Him coming to every game or watching every game and talking to him after every game and talking hockey, that's not there anymore."
Zach Parise also went to Shattuck and is now in his 10th NHL season and third with the Wild.
Former Stars forward Mike Modano posted a note on Twitter after hearing the news.
"Our Thoughts and prayers go out to Zach Parise and his family on the passing of J.P. All our best," Modano tweeted.
Funeral arrangements were pending.
With files from The Associated Press