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|Parise and Brown vying to join exclusive club|
|Written by Blake Benzel|
|Thursday, 31 May 2012 01:06|
Just one U.S.-born player has ever had the honor of captaining a Stanley Cup Champion team. After this year's Stanley Cup Final, that number will have increased by one.In 1999, Dallas Stars captain Derian Hatcher became the first U.S.-born player to captain a Stanley Cup winner.
In June, his club will be a little less exclusive.
Wednesday night, the puck dropped on the Stanley Cup Final and that puck drop marked the first time in league history that two teams captained by players born in the United States will face off for Lord Stanley’s Chalice.
Zach Parise, a native of Minneapolis, Minnesota, and Dustin Brown, from Ithaca, New York, will attempt become the second member of Hatcher’s club, and both players have an appreciation of what this moment means for themselves, personally, and for USA hockey.
“It’s great for the game in the U.S.,” Parise told reporters during the NHL’s media availability sessions. “That says a lot for American hockey.”
What says even more about the state of American hockey is how vastly different the two captain’s games are from one another.
Both are familiar with each other, having played together in multiple international events, and both admire the other’s abilities.
“The one thing I say about Zach is that you’re not going to find a more skilled guy who competes harder,” Brown told reporters during the media day. “He has first-line skill and a fourth-line mentality and work ethic. He probably works harder than any high-end skill guy that I’ve seen.”
Parise returned Brown’s praise.
“He’s physical," Parise said. "He does everything on the ice. We have to make sure we are aware when he’s out there.”
Not only are Parise and Brown vastly different players, but they have also taken different paths to get where they are in their careers.
Brown played two seasons of high school hockey in Ithaca before opting to make the transition to major junior hockey, playing for the OHL’s Guelph Storm for three seasons prior to being drafted in 2003. Brown played just 31 games in his rookie season, and played a full season for Manchester Monarchs, the Kings' AHL affiliate during the NHL lockout season of 2004-05. He returned to the NHL full time the following season and never looked back.
Parise, on the other hand, played for two seasons at the hockey star breeding ground of Shattuck-St. Mary’s in Minnesota prior to spending two years playing for the NCAA’s University of North Dakota. He turned pro during the lockout, spending the 2004-05 season honing his skills with the AHL’s Albany River Rats prior to becoming a key member of the Devils’ attack the next season.
Their varied backgrounds and their different skill sets point to one thing according to Devils general manager Lou Lamoriello: Nationality is no longer an issue, when speaking about NHL players.
“I think the players that are playing in the league – what transpired years ago, that’s gone; they’re all hockey players now," Lamoriello told reporters. "Whether it’s Europe, whether it’s Canada or whether it’s the States, they’re all developing the same way [and in the] same [developmental] leagues – they are all one. If you want to single out American hockey…they made a breakthrough in  and it’s just been better and better [since then].”
With 15 members of both the Kings and Devils being American-born, it certainly looks that way and Brown and Parise are now the faces of American hockey and a Cup win for either player will add to that.
“It comes with the territory,” Parise said. “The more success you have, the more individuals are going to be recognized. It means a lot because I remember looking at the Brotens and Modanos. Now hopefully we’re having that type of impact on the young kids that they did on us.”
While the story may take a back seat heading into Wednesday’s Game 1, it will certainly be a story that could make all the difference in the world to young players watching the Stanley Cup Final.
Regardless of who wins this series, USA hockey wins.
Photos by Getty Images