Zach Parise was named captain of the U.S. Olympic Men's Hockey Team, USA Hockey announced Friday. The Minnesota Wild forward tied for the U.S. scoring lead at the 2010 Olympics and has been a USA Hockey fixture since he was 16 years old.
"Can't think of a better group [of leaders], and can't think of a better captain than Zach Parise to lead our team," said U.S. head coach Dan Bylsma.
Team USA has an interesting dynamic with several current or former captains on the club. The administrators for the team along with Bylsma identified a leadership core of five players before the season even started. That included the three U.S. captains and David Backes and Ryan Callahan, who are captains for their own teams.
Parise sees that as an advantage to both the team and himself in his role.
"I don't think our team is going to be lacking in leadership at all," said the newly minted captain. "There are plenty of guys who wear letters with their teams.I'm going to get a lot of help and I'm going to need a lot of help."
Bylsma noted that he hopes Team USA embodies the playing style of their captain, explaining that Parise's relentlessness on every shift is something he's noticed when the Penguins have played against Parise.
"There has been a work ethic, a never quit, a determination, and abrasiveness about a hard to play against type of player, and it's every time," said Team USA's coach. "Regardless of the score, regardless of the situation our respective teams might be in, that's what you see and that's what you get every time."
The 29-year-old Minneapolis native is expected to play a big role once again for the U.S. after starring in Vancouver in 2010. Parise had eight points, which tied him with Brian Rafalski for the team lead, but his biggest goal came in the gold-medal game. Parise slammed home a rebound with 24.5 seconds remaining in regulation to tie Canada and force that fateful overtime period.
Parise has a long history of wearing the Red, White and Blue. He was part of the first gold-medal teams at the World Under-18 Championship in 2002 and the World Junior Championship in 2004.
Having battled injury this year, Parise has 34 points in 41 games in his second season with the Wild. He has been one of the most productive American born players in the NHL since his rookie season in 2005-06.
By earning the captain nod, Parise becomes just the third different U.S. captain since the NHL began allowing their players to compete in the Olympics. Chris Chelios captained the squad three times from 1998 to 2006, while Jamie Lagenbrunner wore the C in Vancouver in 2010. Notable captains from the amateur era include Mike Eruzione, hero of the 1980 Miracle on Ice, Brian Leetch, Herb Brooks and current Team USA assistant coach Peter Laviolette.
"I am lucky enough to join a pretty elite list of players that have captained the United States," said Parise. "One of my close friends, Jamie [Langenbrunner], was our captain in 2010 and I learned a lot from him."
The players don't need their hands held, with so many stars in the lineup, but it doesn't hurt to have a captain that has the respect and admiration of his teammates.
Team USA had a lot of good choices for captain, but they're probably pretty happy about the guy who will be wearing the C in Sochi.