If you're a student at North Dakota and want to speak with the
brightest young star in college hockey, you can. Just dial the
campus operator and ask for freshman Zach Parise's phone number.
That's what several students did in the early hours of Oct. 27,
after Parise had scored his first home hat trick in a 5--3 win
against Niagara. "Dude, we want to party with you!" one caller
told the groggy Parise at 2 a.m. Other callers just wanted to
hear the 18-year-old forward's voice, if for no other reason than
to one day be able to tell their kids, Me and Zach Parise, we
used to talk at all hours of the night.
"At first, the calls were funny," says Parise, "but it's not so
funny when we have a game the next day. I'm in the process of
getting the number unlisted."
Good thing, because if he keeps playing the way he has, it won't
just be the folks on the plains of the Red River Valley who will
want a few words with Parise. After North Dakota's 1--0 victory
over Alaska-Anchorage at the Ralph Engelstad Arena last Saturday,
Parise had 22 points and led all Division I players in points per
game (2.2). The 5'11", 180-pounder is a big reason the Fighting
Sioux, who were 16-19-2 last season, were 9-1 and had designs on
the national title. (At week's end they were ranked fourth in the
nation according to the U.S. College Hockey Online.) To find
another freshman who had as big an impact at the Division I
level, you have to go back to 1992--93, when Maine's Paul Kariya
scored 100 points. "We realize how special Zach is," says North
Dakota freshman defenseman Matt Greene. "No one on the team cares
that a freshman is leading us, because everyone wants to win."
Parise has been preparing for a career in hockey since he learned
to walk. His father, J.P., played for five NHL teams over 14
years, including nine with the Minnesota North Stars. When Zach
was three, J.P. enrolled him in a skating class taught by former
North Stars skating coach Dick Vraa. "I wanted Zach to learn good
habits," says J.P., whose other son, 20-year-old Jordan, is a
goalie for the United States Hockey League's Waterloo Black
Hawks. "Mastering the basics is the key to hockey."
When Zach was 12, J.P. and his wife, Donna, moved their family to
Faribault, Minn., where J.P. became the director of hockey at
Shattuck--St. Mary's, a private school that boasts an elite youth
hockey program. One of the fringe benefits of having his dad in
charge was that Zach had access to the key that opened the
school's rink. Most nights, no matter what time of year, Zach was
at the rink, often alone, skating and shooting until someone told
him to stop. "Even now, between classes, I'll go to the rink to
skate," says Zach, who chose North Dakota over Minnesota because
of his admiration for Fighting Sioux coach Dean Blais.
Most NHL scouts are already pegging Parise as a first-round pick
in the NHL draft in June. "Zach is as complete a player at 18 as
I've seen," says New York Islanders scout Jim Madigan. "He's on a
timetable to be a regular in the NHL in three to four years."
Parise has no idea how long he'll stay in school because, like
most teenagers, he's living for the moment. Late last Friday, as
he walked through the frigid Dakota night toward his dorm room,
his immediate goal had nothing to do with his hockey or his
studies. "What's really important," he said, "is to change my
phone number. My roommate and I tried to leave a message on the
answering machine saying that I'd moved, but that didn't work."
So far in his college career that's the only thing that hasn't
gone as Parise had hoped.
COLOR PHOTO: JOHN STENNES HEAD START Zach was only three when J.P., a 14year NHL vet, sent him to skating lessons.
B/W PHOTO: AP (INSET) HEAD START Zach was only three when J.P., a 14year NHL vet, sent him to skating lessons.
Class of '06
In addition to Zach Parise, these five freshmen were among the
top scorers on their teams through Sunday.
POS. PLAYER, SCHOOL GAMES GOALS ASSISTS
RW Patrick Eaves, Boston College 9 8 7
F Torry Gajda, Providence 11 5 1
F Brett Sterling, Colorado College 12 9 4
F Jeff Tambellini, Michigan 10 6 3
LW Thomas Vanek, Minnesota 11 9 9