Forget about the struggles the Minnesota Wild has had on the ice this season. The real struggle is the personal tragedy star player Zach Parise is watching unfold, each and every day.
Parise's father, J.P. Parise, a former Minnesota North Star, is fighting for his life against Stage 4 lung cancer.
“It’s the hardest thing I’ve ever had to deal with in my life,” Parise said in an interview with Michael Russo of the Star Tribune. “You try and find that separation, you try to come here (hockey rink) and be around the guys and not think about it, and Yeozie [head coach Mike Yeo] has been really good and the team’s been really good giving me the day off [Thursday], saying basically, ‘Just show up for games.’"
J.P. was diagnosed with cancer last January; the same time Zach was captaining Team USA at the Sochi Olympics.
"It was devastating, of course," said J.P., recounting the day of his diagnosis during an interview in late September, via the Pioneer Press. "It's the effect that you think you're dead tomorrow, but it isn't like that at all. It isn't. (Chemo) certainly doesn't make me overly bubbly, but it doesn't weaken me to the point where I can't move and I can't function."
But the raw effects of chemotherapy became too much for J.P. and he recently ended his treatment; his condition has worsened since.
Zach said watching his father struggle with the disease has been "brutal."
"He doesn't deserve it," he added.
Zach leads the Wild with 30 points in 32 games this season. J.P. was an excellent player for 17 NHL seasons, including a nine-year stint with the North Stars from 1967-75.
Wild defenseman Ryan Suter lost to his father to a heart attack just days before the season started. Cancer also took the life of Minnesota Vikings linebacker Chad Greenway's father just weeks ago. On Sunday, longtime ESPN anchor Stuart Scott died at the age of 49 after a lengthy battle with cancer.