There are many reasons an NHL player will sign with a particular team. Usually, it's some combination of four things: Money, opportunity, the desire to live in a particular place, or a chance to win the Stanley Cup.
But who says that list has to be exclusive? Who says that we can't add another potential reason to the pile?
Let's propose one: Revenge.
Native Minnesotan Zach Parise is perhaps the most-loved player in Minnesota Wild history. His father, former Minnesota North Stars winger J.P. Parise, gave old-school hockey fans the warm-and-fuzzies. His work ethic also endeared him to Wild fans. So did the 199 goals during his career in St. Paul, the third-most in franchise history.
Now he's playing for the team Wild fans arguably hate the most, the Colorado Avalanche. Of course, it's entirely within his right, and there are legitimate reasons for him to sign there. The Avs are a perennial Cup contender, which checks off the potential to win Lord Stanley's Cup for the first time in his career.
Then there's Colorado's depth chart behind Mikko Rantanen. With all due respect to a resurgent Jonathan Drouin, underrated Logan O'Connor, and Miles Wood, there's a spot for Parise to grab if he still has his game. There's plausible deniability that the Avs were the best landing spot for him over potential suitors in the NHL-leading Boston Bruins and the New York Islanders.
But, counterpoint: C'mon.
When the Wild bought out Parise and fellow teammate, alternate captain, and $98 million man Ryan Suter on the same day, Parise retreated to Long Island. There he played for Lou Lamoriello, the GM who drafted him in New Jersey. Entering his age-37 season and coming off his lowest point-per-game average since his rookie year, he had to prove there was something left in the tank.
Two one-year contracts later, he's proved he can still get you about 35 points a season in a bit role. He even notched 21 goals last year. He didn't need to prove anything this time around in free agency.
Except, perhaps for one thing: He could be part of a winning team. The Wild bought him out because they were convinced they were better off without him. And for two seasons, they were.
But now the Wild are reeling in sixth place in the Central Division, and what better way to stick it to Bill Guerin, the GM who cast him off, than to make a playoff run with a division rival? Getting paid by the Wild to win a Stanley Cup for another team would have to feel sweet. But doing it for the hated Avalanche would make it even more satisfying.
We can't know what's in Parise's heart, of course. As an NHL player, he'll probably say the "right" things that don't betray ill will towards the Wild.
But again: C'mon. Fans know how intense and competitive Parise is. How could proving his old team wrong and giving them some embarrassment not be a factor here? Can we expect to believe he didn't speak to or text Ryan Suter, who locked in a four-year deal with the rival Dallas Stars immediately after the Wild bought him out, this summer? Or that something to the effect of How did it feel to knock the Wild out? didn't come up in conversation?
C'mon. That's hard to believe.
If nothing else, seeing Parise join Suter in turning heel gives Minnesota fans a bit of intrigue heading into the home stretch of a season where the Wild likely won't make the playoffs. And if Minnesota manages to pull off the comeback in the standings to make a Wild Card spot, their likely opponents would include Parise's Avs and Suter's Stars for Round 1. Regardless of whether the Wild make the dance, Parise will get his chance to dunk all over the team and GM that rejected him.
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