The New Jersey Devils lost to the Minnesota Wild on Saturday night, but the prevailing story was another return for former star Zach Parise. Is it time to stop hating the former fan favorite?
Well, it was another loss by the New Jersey Devils. Again, a former team star and beloved figure turn enemy scored on that enemy’s ice, which just hurts the confidence of this fanbase even more. After Ilya Kovalchuk made his long-awaited return on Tuesday, Zach Parise came right behind him. The hate behind the boos for Parise did not have the same vitriol as Kovalchuk’s, but the fans had a half a dozen times to do it already.
That brings us to the point, are we finally at the point where we can stop hating Parise? This isn’t the to boo or not to boo Kovalchuk debate. That man made Devils fans wait five full years, and he did them as dirty as humanly possible by leaving in the middle of a contract. It does not matter that him leaving “helps them now.”
Parise, on the other hand, had no obligations to the Devils when he signed with the Minnesota Wild. He was a free agent after spending seven seasons with the Devils. Obviously, the Devils could have turned him into something instead of giving him a one-year deal in 2011-12, although then the miraculous 2012 run to the Stanley Cup Finals never happens.
Also, it’s been seven years since he left. Time doesn’t always heal wounds, but it definitely makes it easier to deal with the heartbreak. Eventually, the boos will be the minority. Hopefully, it’s after the Devils next Stanley Cup win.
Parise’s situation is very similar to that of other former Devils who left for more money elsewhere, and some of those were welcomed back with open arms. Bobby Holik signed with the Devils biggest rivals the New York Rangers, after a decade in red and black. The Rangers gave him a five-year deal worth $45 million. Still, he became a Devils player to end his career, and fans couldn’t be happier to see him.
The same goes for another player who was probably more hated at the time than Holik: Scott Gomez. The former Calder Trophy winner signed a seven-year deal with the Rangers, and immediately fell off. Yet, once the wheels fell completely off, the Devils re-signed him in 2014 for one more season. He immediately became a fan favorite again, and fans wanted another season (which they didn’t get).
More from Pucks and Pitchforks
If they didn’t return to the Devils, maybe they wouldn’t have that admiration, or maybe if Parise returns one day, he can have his farewell tour.
At this point, it’ll be more likely after Parise retires that we can look back fondly on his career. While he was a much better player for the Devils than Holik and Gomez, and he didn’t go to the team’s biggest rivals. However, there’s one thing those guys have that Parise doesn’t have; a Stanley Cup.
If Parise brought a Stanley Cup to the Devils and then left, this would feel much different. Sure, some fans would still boo, but the hatred wouldn’t be there. Just look at the differences between LeBron James leaving Cleveland the two times. They hated him when his “decision” sent him to Miami. They thanked him for what he did when he left for the Lakers.
A title changes everything. However, we can’t change that now. Parise didn’t bring the Devils a title, even if he came close. Honestly, it’s up to fans how they want to feel about Parise, but it will one day go away. He will come back at some point as a retired player, and we will cheer him for his accomplishments here. That’s never going to happen for the other guy who decided to go “home.”