(Ed. Note: This interview took place before the New York Post's report on the Devils' financial status on Monday.)
Zach Parise didn't need to take a vacation this summer. The New Jersey Devils forward has had an eye on the 2011-12 season since last November after he tore the meniscus in his right knee in a game against the Los Angeles Kings .
"I just stayed in the local area," said Parise. "The way I was kind of looking at it, I already had about seven months of vacation prior to that, so I wasn't overly concerned about going somewhere exotic right when the season ended, so I just hung around Minnesota."
Parise was absent from the Devils' lineup from Oct. 30 until April 2 when he made his return -- and final appearance of the season -- against the Montreal Canadiens. In the final year of his deal, Parise scoffed at the idea that his one-game return had anything to do with the upcoming negotiations of restricted free agent contract, instead saying that he needed to get back on the ice before the season ended for his own state of mind.
In late July, Parise and the Devils agreed on a 1-year, $6 million deal three days before his scheduled arbitration hearing. Both sides have said that taking the 1-year deal now will give them time to work on something longer.
We spoke with Parise last week about his new contract and its affect on Devils' fans, his alma mater dropping its nickname, New Jersey's turnaround late last season, banning head shots, and more.
Q. What would you tell Devils fans right now that see your 1-year deal and are worried you won't be with the team next summer?
PARISE: There's a lot of things that go into signing a contract and a lot of things that people don't know and people, I guess, don't understand. By no means is me signing the 1-year deal saying I'm packing up and leaving. I guess I understand why people would think that and say that, but it wasn't like that. The negotiations weren't like that. It was very professional and everything was done the right way. It's not a lie. We're gonna keep working on it and we're gonna keep trying to get something long-term. We're not just saying it to please everybody, that's the honest truth. That's where everything stands right now.
As a proud alum of the University of North Dakota, your thoughts on them dropping the "Fighting Sioux" nickname?
Yeah, that's a terrible decision. Whoever's behind that ... it's the stupidest thing I've ever seen. I don't understand why it's a problem. Without getting myself in trouble, I just think it's a terrible thing that these people are doing by getting rid of that nickname because it's a great nickname.
Have you been involved at all in helping to fight the decision?
I did write a letter. I know they were having a big court hearing and I wrote a letter to the people that were doing it and then I don't know whatever came of that. The head coach [Dave Hakstol] for the team had asked me to write the letter and I was like, "yeah, absolutely," so I don't know what happened after that, but then all of a sudden I hear they're dropping it. It's pretty dumb if you ask me.
Speaking of North Dakota, how big of a loss is fellow alum Travis Zajac to the Devils' lineup?
It's a big loss for us. He plays a lot of important situations. Any team that loses their No. 1 center ... it hurts everybody. He plays when you're up 5-on-3 ... when you're down 5-on-3 ... end of the game ... he's always the one out there taking the important draws. It's going to be a big loss for us.
Have you had a chance to speak to Peter DeBoer yet? David Clarkson has been raving about him all summer.
I have just a little bit, but not too much. I'm pretty anxious to see how things are going to be.
Being out injured for so long last season, you had a unique view of the two different seasons the Devils had. What did you see from up in press box between the dismal first half and end of the year that saw the team make a late playoff push?
No. 1, we started to play with a lot more confidence in the second half. The first half we weren't aggressive; we were way too passive. On offense we were playing 3-on-5 always. It's pretty tough in this league. On defense, we weren't playing as a 5-man unit, so we were kind of getting exposed all over the ice. And then Jacques [Lemaire] came in and kind of cleaned things up a lot and the results spoke for themselves. Hopefully we can carry that into this season. I think everyone's pretty excited about starting anew ... starting fresh.
A few weeks ago, you took part in a charity hockey game at Shattuck St. Mary's in Minnesota that saw the infamous shot from center ice by 11-year old Nate Smith. Did you happen to see the shot live?
No, I didn't see it; we just heard about it and heard it. We were all in the dressing room and it was in between the periods, so we didn't see it, unfortunately.
Did you hear about the end result?
Yeah, I heard. I was pretty bummed about for the kid. It's unfortunate, but I kind of see both sides. I mean, I would love to see him get that money because I think he deserved it, but you kind of have to look at it both ways and it didn't work out unfortunately.
You and Eric Staal participated in a Yahoo! fantasy hockey league last season. If you had the No. 1 pick this year, who are you taking?
I would take [Sidney] Crosby, but you just don't know if he's going to be starting the season, but I still think you gotta go him.
You've been promoting Easton's EQ50 skates. Tell me what to expect when I put them on?
No. 1, they're really comfortable, I know that, otherwise I wouldn't be wearing them. They kind of found that happy medium of being a really stiff skate -- you know they have the graphite skates, the S15 and those just seemed to be too stiff. They kind of found that happy medium where it's stiff enough where you can feel like you get a good push and you don't feel like your ankles are giving out on you, but it's forgiving where you get that snap out of the skate that you want.
The commercial you did for the EQ50 skates last year was pretty popular, but I've got to tell you I was pretty disappointed you were missing the cop mustache with the 1970s threads on.
We're not allowed to have facial hair in New Jersey, so I couldn't have the 'stache.
Even in commercials?
I would've thrown a fake one on, but I didn't know.
So then I'm guessing you didn't do your own stunts?
I did have stunt double for that. That was actually filmed I think four or five days after I got my brace taken off, so I wasn't even walking very well. There was no chance I was gonna do a hood-slide.
The Devils as a franchise don't really put their guys out there marketing-wise and you being in this commercial with Easton: Does it kind of go against the franchise dogma to put yourself out there and show some personality in an ad like that?
For me, I think it's important. You need to sell the game. You need to promote the game. I'm a believer in that. I'm a believer in reaching out to the fans, to an extent, not invading anyone's privacy, but to an extent getting more personable with the fans. That kind of stuff is fun. It's fun to do. And if you're saying the fans enjoy it, that's great. I think it's important to relate to the fans and do that kind of stuff.
Finally, Sidney Crosby recently came out and expressed his desire to see head shots eliminated from the game. Where do you stand on that issue? Would you like to see them eliminated across the board or some leeway with accidental contact?
I'm a believer that they should do everything they can to protect the players and if that means calling all head shots penalties, then so be it. It's scary. You've got the best player in the League -- best player in the world -- who's future is in jeopardy because of this injury. And if we can do everything we can to prevent it, then I think that they need to do that.