Parise returning to The Ralph this weekend
Zach Parise came on his recruiting visit the day Ralph Engelstad Arena opened in October 2001.
He was a highly touted prospect out of the Twin Cities and could name wherever he wanted to play college hockey.
Parise chose UND.
Brad Berry was an assistant coach at that time and remembers the day distinctly.
"One of the happiest days of my life other than getting married and having kids," Berry said with a smile. "When he came here, he was only here for two years, but he had a huge impact on our program. He led the way for a lot of other top-end players coming after him, guys like Jonathan Toews and T.J. Oshie and all those other top-end players. He kind of paved the way. He's one of the guys who helped build our program."
Parise will be back in Ralph Engelstad Arena on Saturday to visit his old team, the coaching staff, check out the renovated locker room facility for the first time—his name and photo appear in several spots—and he's even planning to drop the ceremonial first puck of the game.
It will be his first time seeing the new team area.
Parise currently plays for the Minnesota Wild but is sidelined because of October back surgery. Parise is expected to be out until at least Christmas.
"We're very grateful to have him back," Berry said. "He's one of many guys who has played a big part in building the foundation of our program. To have him come back with his family is going to be a great experience."
Parise racked up 116 points in just 76 games during his two seasons at UND.
He is now on his way to becoming one of the program's most decorated NHL players, too.
Parise's 318 goals ranks second behind Dave Christian's 340. His 661 points ranks second behind Christian's 773. His assist total of 343 ranks sixth behind James Patrick (490), Christian (433), Toews (358), Troy Murray (354) and Dennis Hextall (350).
In addition to having a high profile in the NHL—playing in one Stanley Cup Final, captaining an Olympic team and winning an Olympic silver medal—Parise also started a trend of high-end players from Shattuck-St. Mary's coming to UND.
Although Parise has always been quick to point out that Jesse Bull preceded him in the Shattuck-to-UND pipeline, Parise's commitment started a chain reaction.
Among the star players who followed Parise from Shattuck to UND were NHLers Toews, Drew Stafford, Brady Murray, Matt Smaby, Chay Genoway, Chris Porter and Taylor Chorney, as well as Hobey Baker Award winner Ryan Duncan.
UND once had a six-year stretch where it had five captains from Shattuck: Smaby in 2005-06, Porter in 2006-07, Duncan in 2008-09 and Genoway from 2009-11.
UND rookie forward Grant Mismash, a second-round draft pick of the Nashville Predators, is the latest Shattuck-to-UND standout.
This season will be Parise's 13th in the NHL and his sixth since signing a 13-year, $98 million deal with the Wild.
"He checks all the boxes as far as what you want in a hockey player," Berry said. "He's a tenacious, hard-working player with a great skill package. He's an impeccable person as far as what he brings to the table with character, integrity and respect. That's another reason why he's had success and it's a reason why he's played a long time in the NHL."
Union at No. 3 UND
• When: 7:37 p.m. Friday, 7:07 p.m. Saturday.
• Where: Ralph Engelstad Arena.
• TV/radio: Midco Sports Network (GF Ch. 27); The Fox (96.1 FM).
• Webcast: NCHC.tv.
• Records: UND 8-3-3; Union 7-6.
• Of note: Zach Parise is expected to drop the ceremonial first puck before Saturday's game.