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How strange this all must be for Zach Parise.

The 37-year-old sat at a microphone on Wednesday afternoon staring back at an old life, not yet quite settled into the new. This late in a long hockey career, the biggest narrative events are what happened and what’s next — not what happens now.

When what happened was a nine-year long homecoming with an unceremonious ending, that only gets exacerbated. The Islanders, who sit at 3-2-2, have two games before they play at Minnesota on Sunday: Thursday at Montreal and Saturday at Winnipeg. Parise’s return to Minneapolis still cast a shadow over Wednesday’s proceedings.

“It’s gonna be a little weird,” Parise said. “A lot of different feelings and emotions going in there as an Islander.”

There is, amid all of this, a transition to worry about on the ice. Parise is on a one-year deal with the Islanders and, besides being away from his family, says things are going well.

Zach Parise
Zach Parise
Getty Images

“You can see how close knit of a group this is,” he said. “It can be tough for a new person, but they’ve really made the transition really easy for me. It’s a group of players that gets along really well and I think that really translates onto the ice.”

Though he’s yet to record a point in seven games, Parise has meshed with Oliver Wahlstrom (four goals) and Jean-Gabriel Pageau (two assists).

“Those guys are really good players,” Parise said. “Wally’s finding the back of the net. J-G’s just a responsible player all over the ice. And I think as a group, we’re talking a lot, we’re learning a lot about each other.”

Coach Barry Trotz, who knows something about an emotional homecoming himself, having coached the Predators for 15 years, highlighted Parise’s professionalism when asked about his fit.

“I think Zach is pretty easy to fit into any team as a player because of his work ethic and his detail, and just his attitude and demeanor,” Trotz said. “Zach’s a really good professional player on the ice and he’s a great person off the ice. So he fits in with any group really easy.”

But none of what happens on the ice serves to brush aside family as a footnote. Parise’s wife and twin children still live in Minneapolis. They’ve gone back and forth to see him, but don’t plan on a permanent move.

“As far as the family part, it’s been hard. As a parent, you’re so accustomed to being with them all the time,” Parise said. “Their hockey, their gymnastics, their sports. So as a parent, you really miss that stuff. It’s an important time in their lives.”

This move to the Islanders was unplanned. The contract Parise signed with the Wild in 2012 ran 13 years — he took a buyout after seeing his minutes decrease, then getting relegated to the press box as a healthy scratch by the end of the year. During exit interviews with local media after the Wild lost to Vegas in the playoffs, he said, “The last thing I want to do is [uproot] my family and move and get out of here. I don’t want to play anywhere else.”

Though Parise said Wednesday that he had moved on, his family is woven into the fabric of the hockey community in Minnesota. His dad, J.P.,a former Islanders, played for the North Stars and coached at Shattuck-St. Mary’s, a prep school that produced Sidney Crosby and Jonathan Toews, among others. Parise was born in Minneapolis.

“Jersey I left on my own,” he said, when asked to compare returning to the Devils with this. “[Minnesota], I didn’t leave on my own.”

Trotz said, in his own experience, it takes a quarter to half of a year to get settled. But what about when you’re on a one-year deal at 37, knowing family could be waiting on the other side?

“We’re making the best of the situation,” Parise said.

Unlike everyone else, he’s trying to stay in the now.

Source: NYPOST

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