ST. PAUL — Zach Parise is constantly reminded of the coronavirus pandemic whenever he’s at TRIA Rink. He arrives to the sight of teammates wearing masks, and certain facility amenities are off-limits for the foreseeable future.
When Parise steps onto the ice, however, everything feels normal again. Even if it’s only for a little while.
It’s the ice time Parise, 35, is trying to latch onto as the Wild prepare to take on the Vancouver Canucks in the qualifying round when play resumes Aug. 1. In the midst of a shutdown already nearly 120 days old, the Wild will open training camp on Monday.
“It’s hard to think like that right now,” Parise said during a teleconference with reporters Wednesday. “That mindset is going to be a little bit of a challenge. It’s something that everybody is going to be doing and playing with. I guess the team that can get there the quickest is going to have a little bit of an advantage.”
While the coronavirus pandemic is deeply embedded in Parise’s subconscious, and he admitted there will always going to be concern when in big groups, he is trying to get away from that so he’s ready for games.
“I think we have to accept that this thing, it’s going to be around,” Parise said. “Plus, they are giving players the option that if they don’t want to go, they don’t have to.”
Asked if that puts some players in a tough position, Parise acknowledged that it would be hard for a player to actually opt-out. Not that he wouldn’t understand.
“We all want to make sure our wives and kids are safe and healthy; that’s the most important thing,” he said. “If someone decides for that reason they don’t want to go, then we support them 100 percent. That’s their right to do that.”
Meanwhile, whoever decides to show up to TRIA Rink for training camp on Monday will need to get out of summer mode as soon as possible.
“For the longest time I thought there was no chance we were going to be coming back to play,” Parise said. “It’s been unique, and I think that’s going to be an obstacle for people to overcome, just that mindset of, ‘We are coming back to play.’ That can sometimes be a little different when we are in the middle of the summer thinking about restarting again and getting into the playoffs.”
Maybe it helps that Minnesota’s veteran roster is loaded with playoff experience. That can’t be said about the upstart Canucks. The winner of the five-game series will advance to the official postseason.
“Hopefully,” Parise said. “We have a lot of guys who have played some pretty important games, some big games, and if that can give us any type of edge, we will take it.”
There’s also the possibility that neither team is able to shake the rust off quickly. That could make for a sloppy series with whoever loses potentially feeling upset about the process as a whole.
“Whether it’s the way we scripted it or not, it’s what we are dealing with right now,” Parise said. “If we go and lose three games quick, I mean, sure we are all going to be upset — like, ‘What did we do all that for?’ I don’t think we are looking at it right now asking ourselves, ‘Is this far?’ They tried to do it the best they can and in the fairest way possible.”