Photo: Aj Mansour (KFAN)
By: Aj Mansour | KFAN.com
St. Paul, MN - When Zach Parise and Ryan Suter announced on the morning of July 4th that they were heading to play for the Minnesota Wild together, it was tough not to draw instant comparisons between this pair of 27-year old hockey players and a handful of NBA players that "took their talents to South Beach" two years ago. As Monday's introductory press conference carried on, more and more information came to light that led one to create some fair (and unfair) comparisons to Miami's flamboyant hoop stars.
Remember back to the summer of 2010 when Lebron James trounced on to ESPN for "The Decision" and announced his intentions to join Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh in Miami? The ripple felt throughout the league when three of the top free agents landed in the same place was insane. Sportscenter couldn't stop talking about it. People who had no business talking basketball, were all of the sudden huge fans. Frankly, that situation sounded a lot like what the state of Minnesota was like on the 4th and 5th of July.
Wild owner Craig Leipold joined Paul Allen from the Xcel Energy Center on Monday and shared some of the reactions that he had gathered from throughout the NHL.
"I'm sure at the end of the day [the rest of the league] looked at each other and said, 'Both of them are going to Minnesota?!? Both of them? And they're going for prices where we offered more?'"
Ryan Suter shared that the actual decision to play together in Minnesota wasn't set in stone until the morning of July 4th, but it was clear that the seed that brought the two to Minnesota was sewn a long time ago.
"We hated each other," Ryan Suter said of their relationship during high school. "He was the top player for Shattuck [St. Mary's] and I was the top player for Madison [Capitals]. We had to beat each other to win."
The pair developed a long standing bond that started in their high school years and carried on through college, the pros and onto national teams representing the United States. Turns out it was the silver medal winning Olympic team in 2010 (Vancouver) that brought Parise & Suter together on the same squad serving as co-assistant captains where an idea was sparked. It might be fun to play on the same team.
"We've played together before on different US teams," Suter said at Monday's press conference. "We played against each other. He played for Shattuck [St. Mary's] I played for the [Madison] Capitals. We've always had a friendship and throughout the years we've talked, ya know how great it would be to play together and then it finally happened."
While conversations in the locker rooms of international events can only carry a dream so far, it was the private phone calls and conversations that took place leading up to the 2012 free agency kick off that finalized the deal for Parise and Suter.
"We coincidentally were free agents at the same time," Parise said. "We might have joked about it here and there...but leading up to July 1st we started to get real serious about it. We both felt that this would be a great fit for both of us."
Coincidentally, it was those same phone calls that spurred some of the comparisons between the Wild's new acquisitions and "The Heatles."
As for Zach and Ryan, they're not buying the comparisons.
"I think if you would know Ryan and I personally, you know that this whole [hype] thing, it's not us," Parise said. "We're pretty private guys. We're not having an hour long decision on ESPN or anything. Trust me though, I was getting a lot of texts through this thing that said, 'Come on Lebron, make a decision here.' But you've got to understand what goes into this process. You've got to do a lot of homework. I think it's an unfair comparison, but I understand it at the same time. I probably would be [making the same comparisons] to a guy if that was him."
As fun and understandable as the comparisons may be, at the end of the day, Parise and Suter are as far from Lebron, Wade and Bosh as is possible. They did not have any pyrotechnics at their introductory press conference. They don't have any documentaries that have been filmed highlighting the conquests of their lives. And they did not make an grandiose predictions of winning 6, 7, or 8 Stanley Cups. They simply handled their free agency like a couple of guys who wanted to come home to Minnesota to be with their families and to take care of business on the ice.
It's not as much South Beach flash as it is Minnesota Nice...only wrapped up in the form of a hard hitting defenseman and a lightning fast offensive finisher.
Aj Mansour covers the Minnesota Sports for KFAN.com. Feel free to leave comments and questions on this post or others in the designated comment box below. For Wild updates and breaking Wild news, follow Aj on Twitter. @AjMansourKFAN