ST. PAUL, Minn. -- Canes defenseman Justin Faulk and Minnesota Wild forward Zach Parise knew little about each other personally until this past summer.
Faulk had competed against Parise a few times in the NHL and had formed a strong opinion of him as a player. He recently called him the toughest-to-handle forward he had faced in the NHL, saying Parise combines “top-line skills with a fourth-line relentlessness.”
But this summer, the two were in a small group that worked out together in the St. Paul area under the direction of Erik Rasmussen, one of Parise’s former teammates with the New Jersey Devils. They became friends. And while nothing has been determined, the two could be teammates in a few months -- for the U.S. Olympic team.
Faulk, a native of South St. Paul, said training with Parise was infectious.
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“When you see a guy like that, as good of a player as he is, working that hard it’s kind of hard to look at yourself if you’re not working that hard,” Faulk said. “Even when we skate, you see the tempo pick up when he comes out. College kids start going harder. He’s a leader even when he doesn’t know guys. They know who he is.”
Faulk said the possibility of being together on Team USA in the 2014 Winter Games didn’t come up much in their discussions. Parise was a member of the U.S. team that took the silver in Vancouver in 2010, losing the epic overtime game to Canada.
“When we’re working out, I don’t think hockey comes up. We talked about other things, what’s going on in each other’s lives,” Faulk said. “Obviously if that opportunity comes it will be exciting. He’s a good guy and I would like playing with him. But that’s something that will work itself out later on.”
Parise said he was impressed with Faulk, personally and as a hockey player, and could see him getting his chance in Sochi with Team USA in a few months.
“He’s a hard worker,” Parise said. “I didn’t know much about him as a player but skating with him this summer I think you got to appreciate what kind of a player he is. Granted it was just pickup hockey but you can tell if a guy can play. Strong kid, good hockey sense.
“And an unbelievable shot. He beats goalies clean. That’s hard to do. He’s just a really good player.”