MINNEAPOLIS - Wild forward Zach Parise is no stranger to the Olympics, or the international playing stage. Yet still when he saw his name on a jersey on New Year's Day for a second straight time. The excitement was just as high.
"Even if they have the wrong number," jokes Parise. "I was still pretty excited when I saw it. You know you play world juniors, you play other tournaments, but Olympics is a whole new level."
For Parise who was born and raised an American, that same time special feeling was stolen in 2010. After he scored the game tying goal in the Gold medal game against Canada, they lost in overtime. The loss hurt. Still that game takes a special spot in the mind of a guy who has played in plenty of big games.
"By far the best game I have ever been a part of," recalls Parise. "It took a while to get over and then once you do you find that they are already talking about the next Olympics."
The fact that it's still on his mind. And on the minds of everyone on Team USA is a testament to just how much the Olympics means to them. Because of that Parise, who will play against a number of his Wild teammates in Sochi, says that allegiances to NHL teams stay stateside.
"Once you start playing, it doesn't matter who you're playing against," says Parise "It doesn't really enter your mind who you're playing against. Your job is to win and stop that other person from scoring."
Even if that person he has physically prevent, is his Wild teammate Mikko Koivu.
"If it mean winning the game absolutely," jokes Parise. "I'd be surprised if he didn't do the same to me."
Because it' should be no surprise to anyone that when it comes to national pride Parise, and all those in the melting pot that is the NHL - take it very seriously.