Bromance on ice

by Megan Ryan

Jake Parenteau and Tom Serratore met online.

Well, sort of.

They didn’t swipe through each other’s profile pictures on Tinder, but the two seniors on the Gophers men’s hockey team connected through Facebook before joining the team in 2010.

Parenteau and Serratore both played junior hockey, and Daniel Hildebrandt, Serratore’s high school friend in Colorado and Parenteau’s juniors teammate in Alaska, matched the pair.

“I didn’t really know anyone in our class, being from Colorado Springs,” Serratore said. “[Hildebrandt] kind of hooked us up. He said, ‘Hey, you should hit Jake up on Facebook and kind of get to know him.’”

Hildebrandt said he never really thought helping two friends meet new people would turn into a lifelong bond.

“I kind of just exchanged their numbers,” he said. “Knowing both of them on a personal level, I knew they would get along and become good friends.”

The duo chatted throughout the summer before their freshman year and met before school started while taking summer classes and working out with the hockey team.

“We’d been talking quite a bit on Facebook and stuff, so it was just kind of surreal to see him in person for the first time,” Serratore said.

The future roommates hit it off right away and connected from the start. And while meeting people online may still be fairly taboo, Parenteau said he never considered it weird.

“It’s not like we were trying to get in a relationship or anything,” he said.

Senior freshmen to senior leaders

Parenteau and Serratore quickly bonded as freshmen, partly because of age.

“Both of us were 21-year-old freshmen,” Serratore said. “We were a lot older than your typical player.”

While the two had extra years on normal freshmen, they weren’t always as mature as expected.

Former teammate Jared Larson lived above the pair in Territorial Hall during freshman year, before moving in with them sophomore year.

“They [would] make little bunk beds or make little forts like they were in third grade again having a little sleepover,” Larson said.

Parenteau said the attempts at feng shui were only the beginning of years of “stupid stuff” to come.

“We moved our dorm beds all over the place because we got bored,” he said. “At one point, we had our beds set up where our heads were literally a foot away from each other.”

While both were comfortable invading each other’s personal space, they still needed occasional time apart — even if that was just a few blocks of separation at 6:30 a.m.

Larson said Serratore didn’t have a moped at school for transportation as he and Parenteau did.

“He would always ask for rides on the back of your moped so he didn’t have to walk,” Larson said.

And one day before an early morning workout, Parenteau left his wheel-less friend behind to sprint to the rink from the dorms.

“We all played that off, like we thought he had got a ride with someone else,” Larson said. “I know he was very upset. … I think Jake kind of sent a message to Tom saying, ‘You can’t hop on the back of my moped all the time.’”

Even with the moped incident, Serratore said he and Parenteau rarely butt heads.

“I don’t think we’ve ever had one fight, which is pretty crazy,” Serratore said. “We thrive being with each other. We love it.”

And that has translated to on-ice success as well.

While Serratore is a forward and Parenteau is a defenseman, they approach the game in the same way.

“We’re pretty similar players in the fact that we like to play physical, keep the game simple,” Serratore said.

He said Parenteau is a backbone for the team on the ice and helps everyone gel. That’s a role both players have taken on as seniors.

Gophers freshman forward Vinni Lettieri said the veterans’ guidance has been indispensable for the freshman class.

“They won’t yell at you,” he said. “They’ll come up and talk to you nicely, and they’ll always be supportive of you, trying to help you because they’ve been there and they know what it’s like.”

From an outsider’s perspective, Hildebrandt said he thinks Parenteau’s and Serratore’s friendship has helped the whole team.

“Through that friendship that they have together, they can kind of bring everybody together,” he said. “I think that’s kind of what’s been going on with their team recently. They’ve had success, and I think it’s because they have such strong relationships within the team.”

Graduation (Friends Forever)

The friends work together to win trophies on the ice, but that doesn’t mean they don’t compete against each other.

It’s easy when both are elite hockey players, live together and are in the same business and marketing education major.

“We have a dart board in our house,” Parenteau said. “We always see if we can beat the other player.

“We both like the outdoors, so every time we’re fishing, we want to catch a bigger fish than the other guy.”

Nature is yet another area in which the two found common ground.

Parenteau lives on the St. Croix River, where the two often fish. He has also taken Serratore hunting on his grandfather’s land.

“He’s turning me into the outdoorsman,” Serratore said.

There are still some things Parenteau can’t teach his best friend, though. His array of stupid human tricks — from humming through his throat to blowing bubbles off his tongue to gleeking — is on that list.

“He tries to teach me, but I just can’t catch on to it,” Serratore said.

While Parenteau and Serratore are obviously very close, they never let any of their other friends feel like third wheels — even when their teammates tease them for being so close.

“It [never came] down to us going to a movie theater and them holding hands and me off on the side,” Larson said.

As far as the future, the two said they are hoping to continue to play hockey professionally — together, of course.

“We were joking with each other that we want to be a package deal with some sort of team after college,” Parenteau said.

While postgrad plans are uncertain, both said one thing was for certain.

“That’s a friendship that’ll last forever,” Parenteau said. “You build a family here. They’re not just saying that.”

After all the two have seen and experienced together throughout their college career, Serratore said, he couldn’t ask for a better friend for the rest of the way.

“I guess it is a bromance,” he said.