Former New York Islanders winger J.P. Parise, the father of current Minnesota Wild star Zach Parise (and Jordan, J.P. glowingly noted) and the scorer of the overtime goal against their city rivals that put the Islanders on the map in 1975, died Wednesday night.
It was widely known in hockey circles that Parise's health had taken a turn for the worse in his battle with lung cancer. So over the last few weeks, living tributes, and now memorials, have been pouring in about a beloved figure for Islanders fans, Minnesota fans (he was a former North Star, too), and Canadian hockey fans who remember his performance in the epic 1972 Summit Series against the USSR.
He was a beloved figure in all of these circles.
Of course, Islanders fans will remember -- or have heard the legend told and retold -- of his playoff series-winning OT goal that told the Rangers there was a new team in New York:
For the family, the end was too soon and too hard. These are always so terribly hard. Zach, who at age 30 has lost his father, recently shared his anguish as the end neared, in the Star-Tribune:
"The hard part is this was our thing. Hockey was our thing.
"I’m trying to find ways to cope with it and I’m not doing a good job. I’m not going to lie, it’s not easy. It’s just always there. Just can’t hide from it. I just hate to see him suffering.
‘‘He doesn’t deserve it."
As anyone who's seen a loved one go through this knows, no one deserves it. Cancer is one of those "this is the worst" kind of endings. But with rare and usually ugly exceptions, we don't get to choose the manner of our end. We don't get to choose what age we are when our parents go, nor the age of our children when we go (and that's fortune compared to the awful horror when a child goes first).
So we try to remember the good times, and the impact they left.
A Key Part of Islanders Lore, and the Family Bonds that Result
Though he wasn't with them when the team began a run of four consecutive Stanley Cup championships, J.P. Parise was a major part of Islanders history.
As such, he brought multiple generations of fans together. Cops and firemen and investors and truckers and vendors and teachers and analysts and more. Brothers taunted each other over Parise's goal. Parents have told the story to their children as they became Isles fans in the '80s, '90s or the new millennium. As a franchise, or a concept, the Islanders have now been around long enough that they have done that for multiple generations -- and for long enough that some of the key figures are grey, or in failing health, or no longer with us.
Next year the Islanders, by the force of time and circumstance, will leave history behind and vacate Nassau Coliseum where so many cherished family and friend memories were forged. They will take up residence in Brooklyn, which superficially is joked to be the land of people so young and hip they can't imagine ever growing old (even though they were around before the first Nassau demo album).
But borough jokes and flippant stereotypes aside, we all know. We better know.
Nassau, Suffolk, Brooklyn, Jersey, Canada, and well beyond -- no matter where we come from or where we are now, we are all in this in some way for another avenue and outlet to enjoy life and the short conscious existence it affords us. The relationships and silly moments of elation that make that existence richer.
Players like -- no, people -- like J.P. Parise helped make that happen. He is missed now. He will be remembered forever.
Our thoughts and prayers to the Parise family at this tough time. May their memorials and celebrations bring some relief. By all means, share your tributes and memories below.