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Brad E. Schlossman / Forum Communications Co., Published May 29 2012

Former roommates face off in Stanley Cup finals

GRAND FORKS – Room 103B in Walsh Hall is just 11 feet wide and 18 feet long.

The contents crammed in there include two single beds, two desks, two dressers and – nine years ago – two future NHL captains and Stanley Cup finals opponents.

New Jersey Devils captain Zach Parise and Los Angeles Kings alternate captain Matt Greene, who will play against each other for hockey’s ultimate prize beginning tonight, lived with each other in the same University of North Dakota dorm room as freshmen in 2002-03 and still keep in touch today.

“(Greene) sent me a text after we won (to advance to the finals) saying, ‘Congratulations, I won’t talk to you until after the playoffs,’” Parise told NHL.com. “Greeney is the type of guy who you meet and within five minutes you can figure out what type of guy he is. You can form your opinion pretty easily.”

Greene added: “We probably won’t talk through the series. I don’t see that happening. But I don’t think it’s going to affect our friendship at all.”

That friendship started when they moved in together in August of 2002.

Parise, a highly touted forward recruit from Minneapolis, occupied one side of the room. Greene, a physical defenseman from Grand Ledge, Mich., occupied the other side.

And their former teammates now laugh at the thought of it.

“I don’t know how Zach could survive with Greene being his roommate,” said Jake Brandt, UND’s starting goalie at the time. “Zach was all serious and all business. Greeney was kind of a character to say the least. Two opposite personalities.”

Defenseman Andy Schneider also laughed recalling it.

“It was a pretty interesting dynamic,” Schneider said. “Matt is pretty outgoing. He’s loud and the life of the party. Zach was tame and a guy who was more about taking things in. Matt would always try to put Zach in funny positions he didn’t want to be in.

“But the one thing about Matt is that he’s extremely loyal. He’s always had Zach’s best interests in mind. They both ultimately knew why they were at UND and what their goal was. When it was time to have fun, they had fun, whether it was playing video games or going to movies or whatever. When we were at the rink, those guys would flip a switch.”

When he didn’t have class in the morning, Parise would walk across Sixth Avenue to Ralph Engelstad Arena to skate or work on skills.

UND coach Dave Hakstol said Parise was one of the first players that “fully took advantage of the facility in every sense.”

Greene also was a dedicated worker who was named the team’s captain as a junior.

“Once you start talking to him, he’s one of those guys you want to follow,” said former teammate Erik Fabian. “He’s got that presence about him. He can lead.”

Greene also was the leader in nicknaming all of his teammates. He gave Parise the nickname ‘Z-Par,’ he called Travis Zajac ‘Zips’ and himself ‘Hawk.’

Zajac, who played with Greene on the 2004-05 Frozen Four team and will play against him in the Stanley Cup finals, told NHL.com: “He’s a funny guy, so it’s easy to get along with him. He keeps the team in check. He is a guy you can learn from on and off the ice, just by how hard he works.”

On the ice, Parise was UND’s most dynamic threat. He was a Hobey Baker Award finalist during both of his college seasons.

“I played with some guys who could shoot the puck,” Brandt said. “I played with some guys who were fantastic at dekeing you. Zach was great overall. When he got one-on-one with you, he usually came out on the winning end. He could do things to a goalie that I’d never seen before. He’s a battler. He works his butt off. And he can make you look foolish.”

Greene, meanwhile, was an intimidating physical presence who “brought a lot of confidence to his teammates,” Hakstol said.

“People always told me goalies are crazy,” Brandt said. “Well, I didn’t have to stand in front of the net and get cross-checked and hit by Matt Greene. I think I was pretty smart.”

Since they left UND, Greene and Parise have been on different coasts. And their former teammates have spread across the country and into Europe. But they still cross paths frequently.

Schneider said that Parise and Greene were both in Mexico for the wedding of former teammate Colby Genoway a couple years ago. Schneider also visited Greene in Los Angeles about a month ago – just prior to the start of the NHL playoffs.

“You find memories and bonds that you don’t get in pro hockey,” Schneider said. “You’re playing for a championship, not for your next contract. I have a different friendship with these guys. I can’t say enough about how proud I am to have a couple of buddies playing for the Stanley Cup.”