Neil Best first worked at Newsday in 1982, then returned in 1985. His SportsWatch column debuted in 2005.
To the wider world, Zach Parise's decision Wednesday to sign with the Minnesota Wild was a simple tale of a local boy who made good elsewhere returning home to play in front of family and friends.
And so it mostly was. As his father, J.P., who still lives near Minneapolis, said Thursday, "It was a very, very good day. It was exciting. I'm a parent. I take great enjoyment watching my son make decisions that are going to make him happy.''
But there was a back story -- one that predates Zach's birth by nearly a decade -- that added a delicious what-goes-around-comes-around twist for his proud father. "Oh my gosh, does it ever,'' J.P. said.
Let's turn the clock back to 8 a.m. one Sunday, generally not a good time for a call summoning you to the general manager's office.
Sure enough, when Parise sat across from Jack Gordon on Jan. 5, 1975, the North Stars GM could not bear to look directly at him.
"He said, 'Uh, uh, we made a trade and you're involved,' " said Parise, then 33. That did not shock him. The destination did. There was one market Parise had told the North Stars he wanted no part of: New York.
"The Islanders had been awful," Parise recalled. "But [Torrey] was saying, 'We need you to play' and all this other stuff. Finally I get there, and it was just like magic."
It turned out the Islanders were good and getting better, and Parise and Jude Drouin, whom the Stars also traded to the Islanders, were perfect fits for the stretch run.
And what a run it was, one that did not end until Game 7 of the semifinals against the Flyers. It was the first postseason step on a path that led to four consecutive Stanley Cups.
Parise was not around for those Cups; he was traded to Cleveland in 1978 and retired in '79. But even though he played a mere three seasons on Long Island, he still is recalled fondly for one of the biggest goals in team history -- 11 seconds into overtime of the third and deciding game of a first-round series against the Rangers.
During the ensuing decades, Parise has talked about that goal dozens of times. But it was not until recently that he actually saw it -- during a taping of an episode of "MSG Vault" that premieres at 10 p.m. Saturday.
On the show, he watches himself redirect Drouin's perfect pass from the corner and says, simply, "Oh my goodness." On the phone, he said this: "I got all excited. You get all emotional about those things."
Parise largely credited coach Al Arbour for starting overtime with his line, and Drouin for "manufacturing" the goal.
Strangely, there is no discussion on the show of what led up to Parise's score, a furious third-period rally by the Rangers to tie the score after the Islanders had taken a 3-0 lead.
"Amazing," Parise said. "They had a good team. I don't know what was wrong. They panicked for two periods, then all of a sudden they came alive. We were lucky we escaped that."
The rest of Saturday's "Vault" focuses on the Islanders famously recovering from a 3-0 series deficit to oust the Penguins.
Parise would lead those Islanders in postseason goals with eight -- and wonder why he resisted going to Long Island in the first place. "I hated the New York area, hated New York people," he said. "But it was all in my mind."
Parise still pulls for his old team and laments its recent struggles, especially the struggle to get a new arena built.
"There is such a good fan base," he said. "Sometimes I watch games and say, 'Holy cripes, what's going on here? All the empty seats!' "
But he does see a good young team in the works and at one point mentioned the Islanders in passing as Zach pondered potential destinations, even though he knew that was not a realistic possibility.
Zach had other things in mind. In the end, he reluctantly left the Devils and the metropolitan area -- thus reversing the path his father took 37 years ago.
J.P.'s only wish is that Zach's voluntary move works out as well for his son as that long-ago involuntary one did for the father.
"You never know about those things," J.P. said of the trade he now calls the best thing that ever happened to him. "That's hockey."