By Helene Elliott
11:47 AM PST, January 31, 2014
Zach Parise of the Minnesota Wild was appointed captain of the U.S. men’s hockey team for the upcoming Sochi Olympics, with Kings captain Dustin Brown and Minnesota defenseman Ryan Suter appointed the alternate captains.
Parise was an alternate captain of the 2010 U.S. team that won a silver medal at the Vancouver Olympics and was the captain of the New Jersey Devils before he left as a free agent to sign with the Wild. Parise, Brown, Suter, New York Rangers forward Ryan Callahan and St. Louis Blues forward David Backes had been designated the team’s leadership group last July, before Team USA’s orientation camp.
Parise, son of former NHL player J.P. Parise, is from Minneapolis. Brown is from Ithaca, N.Y., and Suter is from Madison, Wis. Brown is in his sixth season as the Kings’ captain. Parise and Suter are both alternate captains for the Wild.
Team USA General Manager David Poile said the coaching staff had identified Parise as its choice for the captaincy through conversations during and after the brief orientation camp last summer. He also cited Parise’s long history of representing the United States at major events.
“Zach has represented the U.S. in many, many tournaments,” Poile said. “He was an alternate captain of the 2004 national junior team that brought the U.S. its first ever gold medal in the world junior championship. He played on the U.S. men’s national team in 2008 and was an alternate captain. He was the captain of the New Jersey Devils. He was an alternate captain of our 2010 team in Vancouver.”
Team USA Coach Dan Bylsma said the quality of leadership was among the strengths of the team, especially among the five players in the leadership group.
“As this team came together, you look at 10 players that have been a captain or assistant captain on their team,” he said.
“When it comes to a captaincy or leadership, you’re looking for players and people who embody who you are and how you want to play. They have to be examples both on and off the ice. And I can’t think of a better group. I can’t think of a better captain than Zach Parise to lead our team and be our captain.”
Parise, in Calgary with the Wild, said he was “pretty thrilled” to get the call from Bylsma earlier this week. “I am lucky enough to join a pretty elite list of players who have been captains for the United States,” he said during a conference call with reporters. “One of my close friends last time, Jamie [Langenbrunner], was our captain in 2010. I learned a lot from him, not only there, but playing with him and him being our captain in New Jersey as well.
“There are plenty of guys that wear letters with their own team so I don’t think our team is going to be lacking in leadership at all. There are plenty of guys that are capable of doing that.”
Parise also said he anticipates being safe during the Games despite recent terrorist actions and threats in regions not far from Sochi.
“Unfortunately, I think that security has kind of dominated a lot of the conversation when you’ve been talking about the Olympics, and I think that us players, we're all comfortable going there," he said. "I don’t think they would allow us to go if they felt there was immediate danger to us. I think you have to put your trust in the Russian police. Not only that, but the security that we’re going to be sending over there as well. We’ll be in some good hands.
"We can just relax and focus on, concentrate on playing hockey and hopefully put on another good show like we did in Vancouver and have a lot of the United States following us like we did last time. I know the time change will be a little different, but hopefully they can get up early and watch those games and support us again.”
Sochi is 12 hours ahead of Los Angeles.
Team USA is scheduled to arrive in Sochi on Feb. 10 and practice at 9 p.m. Sochi time the same day. Team USA's first game will be against Slovakia on Feb. 13.
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