Mar 20, 2014, 11:37 AM EST
Former Devils captain Zach Parise will play in New Jersey tonight for the first time since leaving two years ago — and he’s not expecting a warm reception from the Prudential Center faithful.
Parise said if he is booed, “I’m fine with it.”
“I’m expecting it,” he said. “It’s fine. They’re passionate about their team and it’s understandable. I guess if they wouldn’t even care to acknowledge that I was back, that would be a little different.”
“They’re not really helping out my cause,” Parise said.
Parise bolted during the summer of 2012 by signing one of the largest deals in NHL history with Minnesota. It was a contentious split — just months prior to signing with the Wild, Parise helped the Devils reach the Stanley Cup final for the first time in nine years.
The departure also came after Parise was named the ninth captain in franchise history. He was awarded the “C” with the idea he’d be part of the franchise long-term, something Martin Brodeur referenced when Parise’s captaincy was announced.
“He’s got to stay here. That’s the bottom line,” Brodeur said, per the Star-Ledger. “That’s how we’re going to know how good he is as a captain.”
Devils GM Lou Lamoriello has remained tight-lipped about Parise’s departure, saying “it’s unfortunate, but it’s part of the business.” Some have blamed Parise for a lack of loyalty to the organization (Lamoriello said the team’s offer was “competitive” to the 13-year, $98 million deal Parise signed with the Wild) while others have blamed the Devils for not doing enough to retain their captain’s services.
All that said, New Jersey still sounds as though it’s a big part of Parise. He sounds like he cherished his time with the Devils and expects tonight to be an emotional one — even if there are boos.
“You’re going to see a lot of people I haven’t seen in a long time as far as their staff and their players. I’m looking forward to that. I have a lot of good friends there,” he explained. “I think it will be pretty emotional for me at the start, just a lot of really good memories from playing here.”
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