NEWARK -- Hockey has been considered Canada’s game, but U.S. hockey has slowly been making inroads.
When the puck drops tonight in Newark two American born captains will be on the ice for each squad, a rarity in the Stanley Cup Finals. Zach Parise, the captain of the Devils, may be best known by the casual fan for his game tying shot in the gold medal game against Canada in the Olympics. Dustin Brown, the Kings captain, was on that Olympic squad too.
It wasn’t the first time the duo played together. They have played in the World Juniors and World Championships along together along with the Olympics. “It seems like every USA event we’re playing together,” Parise said during media day on Tuesday.
“I know Zach really well since we were 15,16 years old,” Brown added. “It’s one of those, you get to know certain guys better and he was one of those guys I met and got along with.”
Parise developed an understanding for how Brown played and how talented he was when they were paired together on a line in a World Juniors tournament.
“He’s a great player,” Parise said about Brown. “Even if he’s not scoring, getting assists or anything, you know when he’s out there. He does a lot of things out there that might not wind up on the score sheet, but he’s a very effective player even when he’s not scoring.”
Brown says that his counterpart is the more skilled player of the two and that he has the “bigger impact on the game from a physical standpoint.” Though he said they both do the little things right.
The emergence of stars like Brown and Parise lends credence that American hockey is on the rise. Areas like Pittsburgh have become hot beds for hockey in the US. Not to mention non-traditional areas like California have also had players make their way into the NHL draft.
“It’s great for the game in the U.S.,” Parise Said about having two American born captains in the finals. “I didn’t know that it’s been the first time two American captains in the finals. Someone told me that a bit ago, I didn’t know that, so that says a lot for American hockey.”
“I think it’s a good thing for USA Hockey that we have that type of players coming out of USA Hockey,” Brown added. “This is probably the biggest stage ever from a US hockey standpoint other than the Olympics. It’s something to take pride in. I think American hockey, USA Hockey is going in the right direction in terms of having more players in the spot light.”
13 years ago Derian Hatcher became the first U.S.-born captain to raise the Stanley Cup when the Stars won in 1999. Now Parise and Brown have guaranteed that it will happen again in 2012.