MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Mark Parrish was part of a Bloomington Jefferson hockey dynasty in the 90s. He, Ben Clymer, Mike Crowley, and Dan Trebil were part of a group that spent time in the NHL.
None of them were in the league longer than Parrish.
After leaving the game as a player, he took some time off. This fall, he’s back — as a high school coach in Orono.
Parrish put together a multi-million dollar NHL career. He was a big scorer back at Bloomington Jefferson, and later at St. Cloud State. But of course, he eventually had to say goodbye.
“It takes a couple years of reflection, and then kind of realize how much we miss it, being part of it,” he said. “Just being part of a team. Coming in and screwing around in the locker rooms, having a coffee, or whatever it is.”
After some time away, he’s found his way back to the game as the head coach at Orono High School.
“It’s way more exciting than I expected it to be,” Parrish said. “More nerve-wracking — there’s a lot more hope. Just hoping the kids do well and work their best, and just try.”
He says he’s learned that coaching is tougher when you’re in the mindset of a player.
“When you’re a player, you’re thinking about what’s best for the team but it’s in an incredibly biased manner,” he said. “You of course want to be the guy with the puck, and that’s what makes you become a player and what gets you to the NHL and all those good things too. But then when you’re a coach and you start thinking about all those emotions, and all the personalities, and the things you have to think about for the entire team, you kind of chuckle thinking about all those things you thought as a player. That’s for sure.”
For the players, it’s an incredibly unique experience, to have an NHL-caliber coach.
“He’s a very energetic, passionate guy,” Orono forward David McCluskey said. “It’s really good, because he has total knowledge of the game, and he knows really well how to interact with kids and with people. So to have him be both a really good and knowledgeable coach, and have good people skills, just works well with the whole team.”
It’s alawys different when the coach and his assistant played at the highest level.
“Our players have a bit of a challenge against them,” Parrish said. “We hear from each coach that their teams are excited to play against myself and Matt Cook. And that’s something our kids have to deal with more than us. They kind of have to deal with the ghosts of their coaches out there playing along side of them.”
But the new job is more about internal relationships with the players than with other coaches in the league.
“Whenever I feel the need to go to someone with a question about my game or interacting with teammates, Mark’s the guy to go to,” McCluskey said. “He knows everything.”
So far, Parrish says things have been going better than expected.
“It’s way more fun. It really is,” he said. “There were times as a player, I remember, just going to the rink and wondering what line I was going to be on, and all those things. And now, I’m just excited. I can’t wait to get to these kids to help them out.”