Ryan and the Technicolor Wardrobe
Short Stories and Essays

A couple of days after my 30th birthday, my best friend had a confession.  He hadn’t bought me a birthday gift yet.  I could’ve really piled on the guilt, especially since it was sort of a “landmark” birthday, but I was actually quite relieved.  The day after my birthday, something exciting had happened that actually made that Bruce’s procrastination a blessing in disguise.  The Minnesota Wild had agreed to terms with Zach Parise to play for their team, and as a hockey fan who grew up in Minnesota, it was a big deal, which I’ll explain in detail later.  When Bruce IM’ed me “Sorry, I didn’t buy you a present yet, is there anything you want?”, I immediately typed “ZACH PARISE JERSEYYYYY” in all caps.

Since Bruce is not much a sports fan, he needed to look up who Zach Parise was.  I expected that.  What I didn’t expect, was for him to ask me if I wanted the Zach Parise jersey from his old team, the New Jersey Devils.  At first, I thought he was being dense.   Zach Parise is a Minnesota born hockey player, I’m a Minnesota born hockey fan, and he just signed with Minnesota Wild, why would I want anything but his Minnesota jersey?. But then I realized that Zach Parise’s Minnesota Wild jersey wasn’t available online yet, and the availability was what was confusing Bruce, not the Minnesota affiliation.

Coincidentally, Bruce was actually in Minnesota at the time visiting his family, so the fact that he hadn’t heard about the signing is actually quite an accomplishment.  Not only was the Parise signing front page news of the sports section, but it was probably on the front page of the paper, the lead story on the nightly news, the biggest story in the state, period.  Minnesotans are rabid about their love of hockey, and even more rabid when it comes to local born players that have become stars in the pros.  While I’m not as extreme as some of the fans when it comes to this fascnation, I definitely relate to a certain degree.  Zach Parise is coming home, and I immediately needed to buy his jersey.

Being the generous friend that he is, Bruce bought me my Zach Parise jersey.  There was some difficulty in the ordering process, so it took a few weeks longer than we expected.  I was getting anxious.  I was worried that the jersey wasn’t going to show up before the start of the season.  LIttle did I know that the season wasn’t going to start on time because of a labor dispute, so the urgency of receiving the jersey ended up being moot.

The last time I bought a hockey jersey was back in 2004, the first time that I visited Minnesota since moving to California.  I visited Bruce’s family and on the last day I was there, I bought a Minnesota Wild jersey.  I had been contemplating getting a Minnesota sports jersey during my entire trip, but with a little bit of advice from Bruce, I ended up with a hockey jersey.  “What’s more Minnesotan than a hockey jersey?” he pointed out.  When it came to selecting the jersey of the player, I didn’t go with any of the stars or any up and coming prospects, I went with a role player named Richard Park.  He wasn’t a flashy player, but he was Korean, and while I’m not exactly Mr. Korean Pride, Bruce also pointed out that I could wear his jersey long after he leaves the team since Park and Pak are the same last name in Korean and that I could “rep Minnesota on the front [of the jersey] and Korea on the back.”

After I arrived back in California, a friend asked me why I would accept a custom jersey that had my name misspelled on the back.  After I explained to him that the Minnesota Wild actually had a Korean hockey player with the last name Park, he didn’t believe me.  Actually, very few people made the connection but I didn’t care.  I was repping my team and where I was from, but after 8 years and the introduction of an alternate jersey, it was time for a change.

So while I cross my fingers that the 2012-2013 season won’t be canceled, I wait to don my Zach Parise jersey to show my Minnesota pride and my support for my team.  Of course I could wear the jersey without there being a season, but I’d like to start wearing my jersey at a relevant time.  While the labor dispute has definitely left a bad taste in my mouth, I know that when hockey is finally here, I’ll be as excited as I was when my jersey arrived in the mail.  Bruce may not love sports, but he knows how big of a deal it is for me to get a new jersey, and now he definitely knows it’s a big deal, especially since he was part of the whole crazy process both times.