It could have been because David Clarkson and Ilya Kovalchuk have both left since he did. Maybe it was because the New Jersey Devils are entrenched in a playoff race that is bigger than this. It could be the fact that so much time has passed. Being on a Thursday night could not have helped, but the crowd for Zach Parise‘s return to New Jersey was lackluster at best.
It has been 21 months since Parise decided to go home to the Minnesota Wild. He grew up just outside Minneapolis where he watched his father J.P. play for the Minnesota North Stars. When he left after the Devils won the Eastern Conference title, many fans seemed to have taken that personally. It seems like his departure was the downfall of the team the last two seasons.
Based on the crowd last night, it didn’t seem like there was as much hate toward him as you would think. Did the entire crowd boo every time Parise touched the puck? Yes. But was it a sellout crowd? Not by a long shot.
There is also a nice Internet rumor going around about how there were some gay slurs, none of which I will name here, screamed at fans and at Parise by Devils fans. Before anyone makes an opinion, make sure you don’t trust one guy who is armed with a keyboard and Internet connection. There were a few Devils fans who said things they shouldn’t have — I will admit that — but the same goes for the few Wild fans who didn’t act accordingly. There will always be a few fans who make others look bad. This was maybe five in the whole arena, as most people just booed, which is perfectly acceptable. For those who may say I don’t know what I am talking about, I was there for the game and you could hear exactly what was said (again, the crowd wasn’t as hyped as you would hope).
The really sad part is the amount of empty seats around the Prudential Center. The announced attendance was 14,722, but we all know those numbers are always exaggerated. If the fans should have gone to any game, it should have been this one. The team is playing for their playoff lives, playing against a returning star and this could have been the most intense crowd of the season. Despite Andy Greene scoring his second overtime winner of the season, this game should have been so much more.
Nick Villano is the New Jersey Devils writer for Rant Sports. He also adds to the site’s NFL, MLB and NBA content. You can follow him on Twitter here.