09/19/2011 8:57 AM
Sept. 19, 2011
When Francis Pare was sitting at home in Montreal this summer, he found himself at a career crossroads. After three successful seasons with the Grand Rapids Griffins in the AHL, he was weighing all of his options carefully.
“I was looking to go to Europe; my agent had a couple offers from overseas,” Pare said. “I was looking into it.”
Many who don’t get a taste of the NHL after a handful of professional seasons in North America choose to move overseas to play in a top-tier European league, whether that’s for a different style of play, a change of scenery, or the chance to play hockey in an entirely new culture.
Ultimately, Pare turned down those opportunities, and potentially more money, to pursue the dream he’s had since he was a child.
“I told myself to give it one last shot,” said the Lemoyne, Quebec, native. “I’ve got a dream, and it’s making the NHL one day. I’m too young to go over there.”
In July, the Red Wings rewarded Pare’s continued strong performance in the AHL with a two-year contract. A numbers situation in Detroit likely means that Pare will start the season in Grand Rapids, but the multi-year deal gives him a longer window to prove himself and further his development.
“The Red Wings gave me a beautiful contract,” he continued. “This is a sign of respect. I couldn’t say no to that contract.”
In the meantime, Pare has the chance to continue climbing the Griffins’ all-time leaderboard. He currently sits eighth in franchise history with 64 goals and 141 points. He’s also tied for ninth with 77 assists and enters this season as the Griffins’ active leader in all three categories. Two more years in the organization means Pare could potentially cement himself as one of the franchise’s all-time greatest point producers.
However, Pare isn’t as interested in the individual accolades as he is in helping the Griffins get back into the playoffs.
“Obviously, I’m looking at it, and I was chatting about it with (Jamie) Tardif a couple of months ago,” said Pare, who trails Tardif by 14 goals for second place all-time. “But I don’t care about it at all. I just want to help the Griffins win a game every night.”
Pare believes his position among the all-time leaders is a result of playing the game that helped him score 102 points (54-48—102) for Chicoutimi en route to becoming the most valuable player in the QMJHL in 2007-08.
“It’s all about your role on the team,” he explained. “When Coach Fraser sends me on the ice, I need to create some opportunities and put some points on the board. This is the way I need to play every night.”
The loss of Tardif, who was the only player to score more goals last season (27) than Pare (24), as well as leading scorer Ilari Filppula means Pare will be leaned on to take his offensive production to the next level. That’s something that Pare, who produced 54 points (24-30—54) in 80 games last year, believes he is capable of.
“Tardif was a big part of our team last year, especially on the power play and penalty kill,” said Pare. “Hopefully, I’ll get some of the minutes that he was taking.”
It also gives the 24-year-old Pare a chance to establish himself as a leader. Although he doesn’t consider himself a vocal guy, he hopes his experience and on-ice play could set an example for the many young players who will see time with Grand Rapids this season.
“This is my fourth year, and I played all 80 games last year, so I’ve seen a lot of hockey,” Pare said. “I’ve played with great leaders. I’ve seen (Chris) Chelios, (Darren) McCarty, and Tardif last year. I’m the kind of guy who’s a little quiet in the room, but when I say something, it really means something.”
While experience is something that Pare has, he knows that to get to the next level he needs to continue to produce. He must take opportunities like Detroit’s training camp to improve upon his weaknesses and showcase all the work he put in over the summer.
“It’s always the same thing,” Pare said. “The general manager and coaches are asking me to improve my speed on the ice and get more explosive. That’s what I was working on and, obviously, when they ask you to do something, you’ve got to do it. That’s what I improved on all summer, working on jumping and running a lot.”
It’s that kind of persistence that helps Pare improve on the ice from year to year, and is also present in his everyday life away from the rink, like when he picked up a new hobby this summer.
“I started golfing this summer,” Pare said. “I was awful at first, but more and more I was getting better. I shot my best game right before I came here; I was pretty pumped about it.
“But now golf is over, and it’s all about hockey.”
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