Parise seizing second chance with Penguins

by Lindsay Kramer ||

parise-jordan090924_200.jpgLike players of all ages, goalie Jordan Parise approaches the start of the new season with the enthusiasm of a rookie.

Parise’s shiny disposition required a lot of elbow grease, however, after the way the last three seasons alternately teased him with elation, deflation, pain, self-doubt, discovery and hope. Put together, it’s all enough to make a guy crave a do-over.

Which is exactly what Wilkes-Barre/Scranton is giving the once-sparkling prospect this season. Parise’s current view is one from the bottom, but it looks beautiful to him all the same.

"The writing is on the wall as far as where I’m at depth chart-wise," said Parise, 27. "This is exactly where I expected myself to be."

But it’s a lot different than where he was in 2006-07, as a rookie for the Lowell Devils. Parise raised his hand as one of the best young netminders in the AHL by going 17-12-2 with a 2.68 goals-against average and .915 save percentage.

The next year in New Jersey’s training camp, however, Parise tore a hip muscle. The problem wasn’t clearly diagnosed right away and Parise battled through 18 games of 2007-08, posting a 4-12-1 mark with a 3.55 goals-against and a .889 save percentage.

"I’ve always been a goalie who has been able to win games. For me to have the numbers I did, I knew something was wrong," he said. "I just had this whirlwind of emotions. Is this something in my head? Should I keep playing? Deep down, I knew something was wrong."

Parise gained a Pyrrhic victory when he was proven right and the injury was finally targeted. He underwent season-ending surgery that began the physical healing. After the lost season, Parise asked New Jersey to let him go, and the Devils complied. He then jumped to Austria, where a less-grinding schedule allowed him to ease back into a comfort zone. He played 47 regular-season games there, and also let go of several mental barriers (re: superstitions) that had kept him wound too tightly.

"It was good for me to learn how to be a consistent pro," he said. "I just found out the chances of it hurting me if I do (a routine) wrong are so slim. It’s still going to be a hockey game whether I put my right skate on first or my left."

While Parise was pleased with himself, he was a ghost as far as the NHL was concerned. He said he had little North American interest in his services most of the summer and was all but packed to head overseas again.

"The way it works in the NHL, it’s basically out of sight, out of mind," he said. "Doors started closing a couple at a time. Pretty soon there was nothing open.”

Pittsburgh, which had eyed Parise when he came out of North Dakota, nudged it open just a crack by offering him an AHL pact in early September. Parise couldn’t autograph it fast enough before changing his travel plans from Europe to the Penguins’ training camp.

"I’ve been out (of AHL action) for two years. Hopefully, I turned a couple of heads on the big club,” he said. "If that’s the case, I did exactly what I needed to do.”

Strange, but true

Another chapter from the training-camp-can-make-strange-bedfellows department: Two of the first players sent down from Columbus to Syracuse were defenseman Kevin Roeder and forward Chris Higgins, both rookies. Roeder is out of Miami of Ohio, while Higgins played at Boston University.

Those two colleges played in the NCAA Division I title game last season. The Terriers pulled off one of the most improbable comebacks in tournament history by rallying for two extra-man goals in the final minute, then winning the game in overtime.

But wait, there’s more.

The winning goal was a blast by Colby Cohen that deflected off a Miami defenseman and past goalie Cody Reichard. The unfortunate defenseman who went down in history for all the wrong reasons? Roeder.

Higgins and Roeder got to know each other during training camp, but the title game was not on the conversation topic list.

"He’s a great kid. A great hockey player as well," Roeder said of Higgins. "We both know what happened. We don’t have to talk about that situation."

Added Higgins: "Me and Kevin, we hung out a lot in camp. We didn’t talk about the game at all. He was over it. I’ve moved on. We’re both in the next step in our life. I’m glad I won. But at the same time, I definitely feel for them.”

johnsonJohnson’s ready

If Jim Johnson had been interested in fast-tracking his coaching career, he might have been in charge of his own pro team more than a decade ago.

That’s when Johnson retired as a player, after the 1997-98 season. The Phoenix Coyotes, the last team he played for, asked him if he might want to think about heading their AHL affiliate, which was then in Springfield. Johnson, a defenseman who played in 829 NHL games, said thanks, but not now.

"At that time, I was not ready," he said. "As a coach, in order to have success, there’s a process you have to take."

That process finally ripened last week, when Johnson was named associate head coach of Norfolk. The difference between then and now? A long, long apprenticeship.

Following his retirement, Johnson spent four years with Phoenix as a consultant to hockey operations, a broadcast analyst and an assistant coach. It was a great start, but Johnson, who never played in the AHL, needed to tune into a younger demographic.

"My philosophy is coaches need to become teachers before they become great coaches," he said. "I needed to become better at communicating and developing the fundamental details of a player."

Following his time with the Coyotes, Johnson became heavily involved in junior hockey. He served as an assistant coach for the U.S. National Junior Team at the World Junior Championships and also worked as director of player development for the Arizona Amateur Hockey Association. Johnson also is the founder of the nationally ranked U-18 P.F. Chang’s Tier I Hockey Organization. Last year, he worked as development coach for the Lightning, interacting with players throughout the organization. Now, at 47, he sees himself as finally ready to break some new ground.

"I’ve been around elite athletes all my life. To learn how to teach the game at a grass roots level made me a better coach," he said. "I coached the top kids in our country under 20 years old. I’m not dealing with much different athletes now than I did then. I have a great rapport with these kids."

tordjmanTordjman learning Hebrew

San Antonio goalie Josh Tordjman‘s down time this season will be spent on something a lot more brain teasing than video games or matinees at the theater.

His boldly stated goal is to learn Hebrew. He knows enough to read it, but now wants to speak and understand it.

Tordjman, from Montreal, was raised in the Jewish faith and went to Hebrew school. His interest in pursuing the language was sparked when he played in a tournament in Israel last summer.

He said Hebrew is a difficult language to learn, but he’ll have a handy resource. His girlfriend, from Israel, is a Hebrew teacher in Toronto and will send him the necessary educational building blocks.

"I think it’s something to add and build around. It teaches more discipline as well," he said. "It will give me something to look forward (to) coming home, something to concentrate on. It’s not an objective. It’s more like a passion I’ll have."